Afrika ist ein Kontinent mit 1,2 Milliarden Menschen. Das aber ist nicht normal. Es gibt doch immer ein Geben und Nehmen im Leben. Dann wird daraus ein Investment. Aber es gibt ja einiges an Investment. Das ist ja genau das Problem.

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Ethiopia is wooing investors with modern textile factories like this one DW: Your view on international development cooperation is somehow different - you oppose it.

What is behind your position? James Shikwati: I think the point is that cooperation between countries and people has to factor in long-term approach. The aspect that I have been critical about is the aspect of short-term approach to how, for instance, Europe relates with Africa.

So my criticism has always been - cooperation that leaves out the intrinsic aspect of involving citizens in productivity cannot be good cooperation. Do you think Africa should look within itself for development rather than looking towards Europe? In term of solutions, you notice that no other country from outside can really make Africa develop.

Development has to come from inside of Africa. But we should not forget that Africa is not an island. There are other neighboring countries and continents that are also struggling to penetrate the continent and they use mostly financial incentives to penetrate the continent.

The point would be for us as Africans to have a way of navigating the interests from outside but at the same time elevate our own interests. I think traditionally how Africa has been relating to Western countries has always been with the view that they are being helped or being assisted. How could Africans stimulate growth within Africa without the needed experience?

The good thing is that the history of Africa shows that Africans have been traders since the world was formed. The aspect of stimulating growth really goes back to Africa tapping into its 1. James Shikwati is a writer and commentator of public policy Another aspect is investing in African youth because we have a population of close to 65 percent of Africans that are below 24 years. That shows the energy is actually there that can drive Africa to the next step.

There is so much talk about being a sleeping giant. Can you put that into perspective? You notice regional economic markets are evolving. The challenge we still have is its ability to carry our own weight as Africans because of the mindset that we have had for 50 years that other people are the experts that can help Africa.

Should the African Union be at the core of stimulating growth in Africa? In my view, Addis Ababa [where the African Union has its headquarters] should be a networking headquarters for Africans to come and share their latest innovations or political solutions. But the real driver for Africa at the moment is the regional economics blocs because they are closer to the pulse of the people, closer the pulse of the markets.

But having the headquarters, and having its history as African Union headquarter for a united Africa - I think we can still retain it as a networking area. You notice even in Europe, solutions … have come from networking. You bring your innovation, somebody else brings theirs and society has to pick which one they think works for them. Sometimes it fails or some times it gains traction. I think the African Union can offer that opportunity, where we present our solutions to Africa and then have them compete so that we pick which one we can agree on in terms of what Africa should use or utilize.

James Shikwati is the founder and director of Inter Region Economic Network, a think tank based in Kenya that develops ideas and strategies to enhance the quality of life for people in Africa.


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