Friday, November 23, 2012


In his book “The Lexus and the olive tree” author Thomas Friedman suggested “The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention” which stated that, "No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's."

That was in 1996 and the theory has held true except for Russia’s attack of Georgia in 2008, which maybe written off as the exception to the rule.

"The underlying logic is that by the time a country can sustain a McDonald’s restaurant, it has a critical mass of middle class. The middle class would rather resolve conflict by civil means than resort to violence. Violence is indiscriminate in its effect and for the middle class who own assets, this is not a good thing as one cannot guarantee the safety of property in a war....

It provides some explanation for why Africa, with more than half its population living on less than a dollar day, is so conflict prone.

Earlier this week rebel group M23 took over the eastern Congolese town of Goma. The M23 are part of a rebel group that was incorporated into the national army in 2009, but mutineed this year complaining that Kinshasa was not living up to the peace agreement.

The DRC counts as one of the poorest countries going by the classical measures of the GDP per capita and the Human Development Index (HDI).

Decades of mismanagement of the state and more recently the last  fifteen years of conflict after the departure of Cold War relic Mobutu Sese Seko, has meant that the infrastructure --  both physical and institutional, fell apart and with it the ability to effect welfare improvements for everyone.

As a result the hunter-gatherer is alive and kicking, with populations living off the land – snakes and monkey are delicacies, suggesting how far the country’s economy has regressed beyond subsistence.

The solution to the region and by extension the continents’ problems is improved incomes for all and a narrowing of the wealth gap.

Easier said than done.

But given how the lawlessness in eastern Congo has become a petridish for formenting rebellion not only in DRC, but also for its neighbours as well, the issues of development have to be tacked regionally. One nation cannot prosper alone and think it will be insulated from the chaos around it.

There are colonial legacies that the continent is finding hard to shake off. Communication between the old Francophone and Anglophone parts of the continent is very troublesome, with telecommunication and even flight connections in some instances still being routed through Europe. This has had the net effect of ensuring that regional trade is only a fraction of the trade the continent does with Europe.

Initiatives like the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern (COMESA) are attempts to reverse this pattern, helping to retain more and more of the continent’s wealth within its shores.

There is no getting away from it.

The troubles in the Congo are a symptom of a larger malaise.

"We may sign all the protocals we want, have enemies wear plastic smiles and indulge in limpid handshakes for the cameras, but as long as the fundamental problem of poverty on the continent is not tackled we shall continue to be the market of the developed world’s military industrial complex....

Peace would be better served if we had business delegations criss-crossing the region and inter-governmental infrastructural collaborations so that money can circulate, enriching all our societies and accentuating the mutual benefits of regional security.

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