Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Going Bananas

According to this Sapa report Zambia is pissed off with South Africa:
 
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa on Wednesday criticised South African supermarket chains in the country for shunning locally produced fruit which he said was abundant in the southern African country. "I can't understand why they have to import bananas from South Africa when those you grow here are in abundance and are of the same quality, if not better than those imported," Mwanawasa said while vising a local banana plantation. The president singled out a South African supermarket chain, Shoprite Checkers, for criticism but said other retail outlets should stop importing products, according to the report on Zambian radio ZNBC. Zambian farmers are complaining to the government that supermarkets are stocking imported vegetables, fruits, eggs and chicken from South Africa when they are produced locally. 

Would it really be so terrible if South Africa supported local industries in other African countries? The renowned African academic Professor Ali Mazrui has spoken about South Africa in relation to the rest of the African continent in terms of the three v's, first it was victim, then victor and now it is in danger of being villain. In South Africa, we tend to be isolated from the rest of the continent's opinions about us. Some analysis on the issue from Irin, one of the United Nations news agencies:

However, there are sensitivities around South Africa's economic dominance on the continent. By offering incentives to its companies to invest, Pretoria has been accused of undermining local industries.Mbeki was dismissive of those concerns. "Before MTN went into Nigeria, Nigerians could not speak to one another - now they can. South African businesses have had a positive influence on the rest of Africa," he claimed.However, South Africa's minister for public enterprises, Jeff Radebe, last month warned local companies against becoming the "new imperialists". The South African Press Agency quoted Radebe as expressing "concern that there are strong perceptions that many South African companies working elsewhere in Africa come across as arrogant, disrespectful, aloof and careless in their attitude towards local business communities, work seekers and even governments". He suggested a code of conduct for parastatals operating in Africa. (More)

Mbeki does sound rather arrogant in the above mentioned quote. I think South Africa needs to be more sensitive towards local attitudes in other countries, and shouldn't regard the rest of Africa merely in terms of national economic gain. We should operate in the spirit of what Nepad is meant to be about, and practice what we preach. So many South Africans are critical of the way America does business, yet we are doing the same thing ourselves on the African continent. Sure make money, but empower and provide opportunities to local populations as well. One of the problems in the capitalist system, people just get too damn greedy. 

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