Mo Ibrahim: Some African countries too small to continue to exist independently

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sudanese-born British mobile communications tycoon Mo Ibrahim told a news conference in Tanzania today that some African countries are too small to keep functioning independently, and need to integrate in order to survive.

Mo Ibrahim
Image: World Economic Forum.

Ibrahim, speaking at the beginning of a two-day-long event encouraging good governance on the continent, commented that "some of our countries, and I'm really sorry to say this, are just not viable....We need scale and we need that now — not tomorrow, the next year or the year after."

"Intra-African trade is 4–5 percent of our international trade. Why? This is unacceptable, unviable, and people need to stand up and say this," he continued. "Who are we to think that we can have 53 tiny little countries and be ready to compete with China, India, Europe, the Americans? It is a fallacy."

"We are poor, we are hungry, we are going without. Something is drastically wrong. I think we have the right to ask our leaders: are they really serious?" he said.

A reporter for the BBC suggested that the tycoon was talking about economic, not political, integration.

Ibrahim also surprised many African leaders when he did not give out his Ibrahim Prize in October, worth US$5 million. The prize is given to former sub-Saharan African leaders whose governance has been deemed good. Prize judges didn't say why it wasn't given out this year. Former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Festus Mogae of Botswana both have received the prize in the past.


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