“Africa has the biggest voting bloc in the UN, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other such organisations. But what does it ‘trade’ its vote for? Help for Cuba and the Palestinians, blocking UN managerial reform, and manoeuvring around tougher action on Burma and Iran. None of this does one bit for Africa or for Africans outside of the New York diplomats, who revel in such posturing, or those leaders overwrought by their own anti-colonial complexes. Africa is often the subject of these meetings, but its leaders generally miss the point.
“As the collapse of the global trade talks in Geneva in 2008 showed, the WTO was perhaps the worst example. Led by South Africa, 40 African votes were locked together with China, India and Brazil, with the aim of resisting European and American demands for the South American and South Asian giants to open their markets.
“Fine for them, but those same countries had as high – or higher – tariffs on African goods as the EU and US did. If African votes in support of their positions had been exchanged for commitment from those countries to provide duty–and quota–free status to Africa (a small price for them to pay given the limited share Africa would gain in their markets), this position would have made sense. Instead, Africa sold its votes for some form of ‘South-South’ solidarity, without any return to serve its own interests. India, China and Brazil must laugh all the way to Geneva for every WTO session…Until the Africans are prepared to use their voting power like every other multilateral bloc – to advance the interests of their own people – the posturing will continue and conferences, not commitments, will rule the day.”
From Stanley Uys’s review of Why Africa is Poor and what Africans can do about it, by Greg Mills (Penguin South Africa, 2010).