Thursday, January 3, 2008

Does Africa need a Marshall Plan?

From Jim Kolbe, a Republican former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund and a member of the advisory board for the ONE Campaign.

Nurturing a vibrant private sector, promoting entrepreneurship and bolstering transport, water and energy infrastructure require bold thinking and new kinds of partnerships. Donor practices must be revamped to ensure they harness local capacities, not undermine them. The Marshall Plan, the cornerstone of the effort to rebuild Europe after World War II, was based on partnership, local ownership and the private sector. It was also complemented by U.S. trade and other policies to help reinflate European economies.

Replicating the Marshall Plan in Africa may not be the solution, given the dissimilar circumstances, and historical comparisons can be misleading. But the Marshall Plan does offer lessons on policy coherence, local ownership and private sector-driven development.

The United States and Europe are responsible for four out of five development assistance dollars. Though most Africans derive their income from agriculture, U.S. and European farm policies make this one of the most distorted sectors in the global trading system. A thoughtful exchange of views across the Atlantic is a must if we are to build a broader base of lessons learned and institutional best practices and to explore new, more effective models for development policy.

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