Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1999 22:51:48 -0500 (CDT)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: ECONOMICS-AFRICA: Egyptian Writer Slams Trojan Aid
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Egyptian Writer Slams Donors
By Lewis Machipisa, IPS, 4 August 1999
HARARE, Aug 4 (IPS) - Egyptian writer and political activist, Nawal El Saadawi was in the Zimbawean capital, Harare, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the disbursement of crucial aid worth 193.1 million U.S. Dollars to Zimbabwe this week.
While government officials in Zimbabwe were excited over the aid package, which took more than one year to negotiate, Saadawi saw no reason to celebrate.
"They deceive us. They say we are sending you aid but infact they are taking most of the aid back to America," said the controversial Egyptian writer, who was in Harare to attend the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (Aug 2-7).
"I don't believe in aid," Saadawi told IPS. "For instance Egypt receives a lot of aid from America but this aid goes back to America".
Studies show that for every one dollar that comes as aid, the donor takes back three.
Freedom from debt could be the most effective way to achieve sustainable development in Africa. As a proportion of gross domestic product (gdp) and of export earnings, Sub-Saharan Africa's debt of 350 billion U.S. dollars in 1998 is the highest of any developing region.
According to the Ethiopia-based UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), any credible solution to Africa's debt crisis must entail substantial debt cancellation besides better debt management by Africa.
There are currently many initiatives to have the Third World's debt paid back or rescheduled.
But Saadawi is against the idea of repaying any debt. "Pay what debt?" she retorted.
"The debt is our money. They robbed the riches of Africa and then they tell us we are giving you loans or aid. This is ridiculous. This is deception. We shouldn't pay anything. The north are developed because of us," claimed Saadawi, who started writing at the age 13.
Saadawi's views are shared by Choolwe Beyani of the Harare- based African Forum and Network on Debt and development (AFRODAD).
According to Beyani, a "collective default" on debt repayment could be an answer to Africa's crippling debt burden. "There is nothing they can do if we collectively say we don't want to pay back the debt".
"But we have to unite, because as individual countries we cannot do it," Beyani told IPS.
Born in Egypt in 1931, Saadawi has always been controversial. In 1972, her writings and her struggles for justice led to her dismissal from her job, as medical doctor.
From then on, there was no respite: imprisonment under the late President Anwar Sadat in 1981 was the culmination of the long struggle she had fought for Egyptian women's social and intellectual freedom.
In 1992 her name appeared on a death list issued by an Islamic fundamentalist group, prompting her to flee Egypt for five years.
When Saadawi was seven years old, she "felt that there was something wrong on earth and in heaven. At that age I was ready to fight, to die for my country. But I ended up in jail."
Now 68 years old, Saadawi is worried about the growing crisis on the continent.
She argues that unless African people rebel against oppression and create power, they will continue to be marginalised.
To make Africa a better place, Saadawi has called for an overhaul of the continent and a return to indigenous products. "Why do we drink Coca-Cola in Zimbabwe, in Egypt, where are our indigenous products? We eat what we do not produce and produce what we do not eat. That's the vicious cycle of colonialism and neo-colonialism," she said. (END/IPS/lm/mn/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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