Tom Arnold on Africa
At an earlier stage of his career, he worked for the European Commission on Agricultural Policy and on development programmes, representing the Commission for three years in the Ivory Coast and Malawi. Tom was Chairman of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Committee of Agriculture (1993 – 1998). In 2003, he was appointed to the UN Millennium Project Hunger Task Force (2003 - 2004), established by Kofi Annan to devise a strategy to halve world hunger by 2015.
Tom was a member of the Irish Hunger Task Force (2007 - 2008), which was charged with proposing a strategy through which Ireland could make a distinctive contribution towards ending world hunger. He is a member of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2020 Advisory Council and the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund’s Advisory Group.
At European level, he is chairman of the European Food Security Group, a network of 40 European NGOs engaged in food and hunger work and is Vice-chair of the Trans Atlantic Food Aid Dialogue – an alliance of American, European and Canadian NGOs working on the reform of international food aid.
Tom was recently appointed to the trust governing the Irish Times, Ireland’s leading newspaper and to the Irish government’s Commission on Taxation.
Tom Arnold is a graduate in Agricultural Economics from University College Dublin and has Masters Degrees from the Catholic University of Louvain and Trinity College Dublin.
Question: Why are development challenges so acute in Africa?
Arnold: Africa certainly had some very particular development challenges. I mean, there’s an issue of governance which in some African countries is a very serious problem, and there’s an issue in other places of conflict. So there are two kind of underpinning things. But there’s also been… I suppose the problem with Africa, the reason is in the, in the difficulty that is, is because it’s really a number of these countries are really stuck in a poverty trap. Some of that is due to the very, you know, difficult environment they’re working in, whether that’s a physical environment which has a, you know, a burden of disease like malaria and other problems, but there’s other problems of sheer economic underdevelopment, very poor infrastructure in many parts of Africa. So, again, it’s a matter of trying to, you know, find ways of getting people out of this poverty trap and onto the development ladder, and that has been happening increasingly. I mean, it’s wrong to say that, often people think that Africa is a basket case. There are many countries in Africa, over the past 10 years, that’s been growing at quite respectable rates, 5, 6, 7% per annum, and it’s trying to build on that, while recognizing that there are certain countries, certain problem areas where, you know, unless you tackle issues like governance and dealing with the conflict problem, you can’t even start out on the road to development, and that is, for example, in the case of the likes of Darfur and Chad and, at another level, I mean, and particularly bad case is obviously Zimbabwe.
Question: What is the way forward in Zimbabwe?
Arnold: Well, clearly, there needs to be political change. I mean, that’s the first and, I would say, fundamental requirement, and I note that in recent days President Bush has called for Mr. Mugabe to resign and a number of other leaders had done the same, and I think that’s an indispensable first step. If and, hopefully, when that happens, then there is a question of can there be a, you know, a serious political settlement within the country of people agreeing to work together. And then, what needs to be done is that, you know, a program of rehabilitation to be put in place with substantial international assistance. But, you know, I do think an indispensable first step is for President Mugabe to step down.
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