Tuesday, October 04, 2005

South Africa Ascendant

South Africa has always been a leader in Africa, and is regarded as somewhat of a regional superpower. It's economy has outperformed that of most other African nations and it has developed a functioning (though inefficiently one party) democracy. While it has its share of problems with AIDS and rampant crime, it's a nation that's starting to get legs. That became all the more true yesterday:

South Africa has announced a R140 million (US $22 million) donation to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to alleviate food shortages in Southern Africa.

The Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs said in a statement that the government had agreed "to provide humanitarian food aid assistance and to support the rehabilitation of agricultural production in seven countries in the region ... Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe".

"It [the government] has agreed in principle to make R140 million available this year, with the main focus on rehabilitation of agricultural productivity, and in proportion to the identified respective country needs," the statement noted.

Of the total donation, 70 percent - R98 million ($15.4 million) - would be used to assist households to become agriculturally productive again. Aid agencies have blamed drought, a shortage of seeds and fertilisers and weakened capacity due to HIV/AIDS as the main factors responsible for the agricultural decline in Southern Africa.

Twenty-five percent of the total donation - R35 million ($5.5 million) - would be allocated to direct food relief through WFP, while the remaining five percent - R7 million ($1.1 million)- would be used to support the regional early warning system.

This is South Africa's third major donation, and a big chunk of it is designed to increase agricultural productivity, so it's not just relief but also economic development. News like this is always good because it shows that some nations who are just themselves pulling their economies out of dire straits are helping their neighbors. If only Thabo Mbeki would stop being a bagman for Mugabe, they'd really be doing the region a favor.