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Inspiring words from Tom Mboya at the ‘Symposium on Industrial Development in Africa’ (27. January 1966)

I know that Thomas Joseph Odhiambo (Tom) Mboya was a vital politician in the first part of the independent Kenya. He was a charismatic person, who even got himself on the front-page of the Time Magazine in 1960. His assassination in 1969 are still unanswered, like so many other extra-judicial killings. But that should not overshadow the impact and the wisdom of the man, who helped to form Kenya after Independence. He was part of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and worked together with Jomo Kenyatta.

His words in this speech, should not be a fading memory, but something that the leaders of the continent should have worked upon. Since some of it has already been proven to be right. I myself wished it was different, since the trade-imbalanced with the former colonial states and the other developed countries. Therefore, the knowledge he had should be enforced now. As there are to many generations who has been lost and hasn’t gotten what they deserved. Here is the pieces of the speech that should be taken to heart.

Meanwhile, we in the poorer. countries are faced with a rapid growth in population and’ with the standards of life demanded by the. Masses. It has been calculated that a 1% increase in the per capita income of an industrialised country increases the demand for. food and raw materials by only 0.6%, but that the same increase in per capita income in a country importing manufactured articles will lead to an increase of 1.8% in the demand for imports. Super imposed on this has been a tendency for the terms of trade to move against the less developed countries. Unless we in Africa build up quickly our domestic services of supply for enough of the industrial products which are required for the modernization of our countries, we will either become increasingly” indebted’ to and “hence” politically dependent on foreign countries, or have our. progress undermined by balance of payments difficulties” (Tom Mboya, 1966).

Whatever industry we attempt to build the same sort of problems, arise an accurate knowledge, of natural resources is required. Although there is much more to be learned we already know that we have in Africa the natural resources to feed a vast range of industries. Cheap energy has to be obtained. While Africa is rich in energy resource only a fraction of them have been harnessed. Industry cannot grow without efficient transport, but we can get ourselves out of’ the vicious circle since new transport links can themselves be justified in strictly commercial terms by the specific development possibilities now opened up, These three subjects natural resources, energy and transport are Vitally important, but they are not on the agenda, of this Conference” (Tom Mboya, 1966).

These words from Mboya, should be cherished and remembered, as the powerful statement it was. That the will of development on own terms was key and that they could not continue with a trade deficit with the developed countries. This has happen since because the loans, the grants and direct aid from the developed countries to the African continent. That has been a paradigm to control and assess the situation in terms of donors, not on the governments who got the funds. Therefore, the circle of aid and donor aid prospered instead of industrial development and other shifts of supply.

There been many other factors as the leadership and the cronyism has eaten budgets and donor aid. We could have hoped the past had listened to Mboya, that the states and republic’s could have followed this. To build nations on dependent on donors, that in the end will work for their own benefit and not for the African development. They will use the aid and donor aid for their own gain and personal benefit for their constituents, not for the African republic. In an ideal world it would be different, but looking through history and you can say otherwise. Since the development aid and the slums are still there, where Tom Mboya left them. The poverty Mboya saw and discussed are there, the names of the streets and nations might be different, but the troubles are the same.

Tom Mboya spoke wisdom and that should be recollected and not forgotten, not only his vital role in Kenya, but beyond. Mboya’s words here should be discussed and used to change political and trade imbalances to benefit own republic’s, federations and kingdoms of Africa. The states deserves to stop the deficit and also develop themselves on their own terms. That is something they have deserved all along, but the International organizations, Multi-National Financial Organizations and Development Banks has stifled this with their creeds, their protocols and their agreements with the state. To get needed funds they have to open economy and stop government subsidizes to support local production in agriculture and industry. So, the history of the neo-colonial Africa, had deserved to follow the paradigm shift Mboya spoke of in 1966. Peace.

Reference:

United Nations – ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA AND CENTRE FOR INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT – Symposium on Industrial Development in Africa, Cairo, 27 January – 10 February 1966 – SPEECH BY TEE CHAIRMAN OF THE ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOE AFRICA THE HONOURABLE TOM MBOYA MINISTER OP ECONOMIC-PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT, KMYA, AT THE OPENING OF THE INDUSTRIAL SYMPOSIUM, CAIRO, 27 JANUARY, 1966

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