Think Africa first

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It is just great that all the newspapers in the world are carrying out articles and opinion pieces about the announcement of President Barack Obama that the USA are considering a military attack against Syria which has allegedly used chemical gas against the rebels killing more than 1400 persons.

The use of chemical weapons is in itself a war crime and Syria must be held to account if in fact it used such a gas to kill and intimidate the people living in rebel-controlled areas. After the debacle of the weapons of mass destruction which Saddam Hussein was accused of having and which he did not have and which triggered the Iraq war in 2003, the USA are being more cautious and Obama is seeking the authorization from Congress before making use of limited surgical strikes against military assets in Syria. It may well turn out that Obama has overplayed his hand that he will have to pay a heavy political price were he to pull back eventually.

In Mauritius, it seems that it is the role of China in Tibet which is the subject of attention. The fact that we live on an island without any territorial neighbor/enemy gives a sense of comfort which is debilitating. I do not know whether it is the system of education which is to blame but it is high time that Mauritius becomes aware of what is happening in the rest of the world. If the whole world is too much to digest let us start closer to our shores.

At a time when we intend to play a part in the development of Africa – the continent of the future – we must seriously initiate world-issues awareness programmes at all levels. It is shocking that the average Mauritian does not appreciate that his/her future will be in Africa. The whole of the continent is open for business but it is only a small well-connected group that is making use of the opportunities for investment and development in some parts of Africa.

The mindset which prevails at the moment is that the State acts only as a facilitator for all those who are interested to go to work in Africa and invest there. If we really want the potential of Africa and the region to trickle down to the ordinary Mauritian we must reset the strategy and explore new avenues. Instead of giving wide coverage to the small number of Mauritians who are going to work in Canada or the Emirates, we should be encouraging the people to think Africa first.

The potential in Africa is massive and the State must imitate and do like Singapore in having an investment body that will be able to act like the private sector and seize all investment opportunities. One area is the Telecommunications industry. But as long as France Telecom will control Mauritius Telecom, Mauritius will be unable to tap this lucrative sector in Africa. If France Telecom cannot be bought out, let us start another company.

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