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23 / 07 / 2004
Patrick Utomi, professor of political econoics in Nigeria: “Africa needs an international system that allows competition on an equal basis”

The "141 questions" of the Forum (75): "After the Asian economic miracle, will we see an African economic miracle?" Patrick Utomi, professor at the Lagos Business School in Nigeria, is convinced that the African continent will be able to develop in the near future. Although he has recognized that before then it will be necessary to achieve, among other objectives, the adequate management of resources, to expel the corrupt elite from power, to curb the damage caused by AIDS and malaria, and to set the conditions for fair trade.

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Patrick Utomi, professor of political economics at the Lagos Business School in Nigeria, made the point today at the Haima Stage that "the financial aid that Africa receives does not amount to half of the losses that the country suffers due to the unfair policies that the US and Europe apply". He disapproved of the fact that the directors of the World Trade Organization "destroy competition” and explained, for example, that the subsidies the producers of cotton in the United States receive have ruined the economy of several African countries: "we need an international system that allows competition on an equal basis. Once we have that, we will be able to establish trade relations of mutual benefit ", he insisted.

Utomi indicated that another one of the main challenges that Africa has is to achieve the suitable management of its natural resources: "there is more interest in controlling those that turning them into a source of wealth". In this sense, he criticized the actions of small elite groups in power who, while they fight to distribute the profits, condemn to poverty the rest of the population. He urged world leaders not to accept these corrupt elite groups as legitimate, and in this way may help bring to power the groups that may create the best conditions to stimulate the rapid development of the continent: "at the present time, one of our main problems is the brain drain. We must find a way to encourage those people to return", he observed.

With regard to the external debt, Utomi commented that waiving it automatically would only guarantee that the corrupt groups would become richer. He said he favored the method of using "creative ways to eliminate the debt which would in turn alleviate the situation of the poorest people".

This Nigerian professor and businessman also underlined the devastating effects that are caused by illnesses such as AIDS and malaria. He went on to explain the case of Botswana, "one of the best managed countries in the continent, but which is unable to develop because half of the population is threatened with death from AIDS." Utomi also referred to the example of Uganda, "where thanks to an effective educational program, they are succeeding in reducing the numbers of people contracting the disease". From a Christian perspective, he has distanced himself from NGO's that recommend massive distribution of contraceptives to halt the spread of AIDS: "there is evidence to suggest that education in addition to abstinence and fidelity are more successful". In terms of malaria, he explained that it is another cause behind low productivity in the continent because it interferes in the normal work patterns of workers.

Talking about the wars that are devastating the continent, he said that the reasons for these wars are economic. But he also reminded the audience that to find the causes for these wars, it is necessary to look at the history of colonialism "Africa was divided up without taking into account the nationalities of its people; now we find ourselves with the situation in which people of the same nationality are split up among different countries". To put an end to these wars, Patrick Utomi has defended an economic development strategy to bring about the emergence of a middle class: "Conflicts will end when people have more to lose. If we generate wealth, we will put an end to present and future conflicts", he concluded.

Asked on the death sentences by stoning that have had massive international press coverage, Utomi "played down" the question: "the media exaggerated a situation which, in actual fact, was a political game intended to put the president of the country in a compromising situation. Clearly, the stoning sentences are events that are to be condemned, but this has been an example of bad journalism. They gave the whole thing more importance than it really deserved. On the other hand, no one mentions the dozens of deaths caused every day in Nigeria through drought and famine".