Presidents Discuss Countries' Successes, Africa's Future
Barrington M. Salmon | 4/3/2013, 4:12 p.m.
Toward the end of his presidency, Mutharika managed to alienate the U.S., Britain, the European Union, the World Bank and other lending institutions and all, including some other European countries suspended financial assistance. His critics expressed concern about his erratic policies and actions that threatened Malawi's democratic institutions.
"One year ago, she implemented tough political and economic reforms, including a currency devaluation, and removed price controls for fuel," Carson explained. "In the first 100 days, she turned the country around. The economy has expanded and continues to grow."
Banda, who has been involved in women's issues for 30 years, said a number of austerity measures and policy proposals that she's enacted have been deeply disliked but vowed to continue even if it costs her personally.
"We're on track, strengthening government institutions and increasing the level of comfort for donors to return," she said. "The 100 days was used to also improve relations with our neighbors. I reversed all the laws that were not good and in July 2012, we started a national dialogue on the economy. Using mining, energy, tourism, infrastructure and agriculture, we will be able to create wealth for Malawians.
"For 14 months, we have implemented a very, very unpopular reform program. I should have backtracked because elections are next year but it's OK ..."
Koroma is guiding a country that still bears the scars of a brutal civil war that ended in 2002. He spoke of developing institutions to foster democratic change, such as the Independent Media Commission and the National Commission on Democracy, the work undertaken to bolster the economy and critical sectors such as mining and agriculture and restructuring police and security forces so they adhere to human rights standards. Despite the challenges, he said he's pleased with the progress.
"What we take pride in is that we're committed to moving forward," he said. "We have peace and a rapidly developing country ... we've built on the peace and positioned ourselves for growth. This is why we believe that Sierra Leone is no longer a country of blood diamonds ... I believe that Sierra Leone is on the move."
Neves presides over a string of islands - Cape Verde - off the coast of West Africa that have been lauded by Obama and other administration officials for fostering a favorable environment for investment, for its high and steady economic growth and for having one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
"I think that in order to ensure continuity, we must respect scrupulously the rules of the game," said Neves, in answer to a question about keeping democracy on-track. "We must build consensus on the issues and we must strengthen the social dialogue with unions, businesses and management. By carrying out a government of rules, governments become more legitimate every day. They must provide answers to social needs, develop new channels of access and ensure that civil society has room to develop and grow."
Neves said it is critical to cater to the needs of young people and women, adding that every African country's success is tied to including them in all aspects of the country's growth and development in ways that go well beyond lip service.
"We must invest in education, university training and professional and technical training to create conditions so that they can be employed," he said primarily of young people. "Women represent the future of humanity, period. I have budgets that include gender questions and issues. We must reduce the inequality of the distribution of power and wealth."
"We must now say, 'beside every great man is a great woman ..."'