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South Pacific And Africa Face Up To Globalisation

African leaders began meeting this week to discuss the effects of globalisation on small economies, while at the South Pacific Forum, Pacific nations have been accused of being too dependent on outside powers. Smaller trade and economic blocs are a possible outcome. John Howard reports.

In Africa, meeting under the banner of the Southern Africa International Dialogue (SAID), 400 participants have come to Zimbabwe to hear Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, speak on the "smart partnership" concept developed in Malaysia in 1995.

Mahathir was joined by the presidents of Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Congo, South Africa, Kenya, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

Omar Rahman, chairman of the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Managment, who organised the conference, said the dialogue was not restricted to economic development and cooperation, but also provided a forum for resolving problems among countries.

"Malaysia has always had a philosophy that government, private sector and various groups have to work together for the common good of the country," Rahman said.

The so-called Malaysian Ink concept holds that for a country to continue to grow and prosper, its neigbours must also grow and prosper at the same time, in a "smart partnership."

Mr Rahman said an issue that is very urgent and relevant for this region (Africa) is economic empowerment.

Host President, Robert Mugabe said, "All of us in the region have come to realise that the ideals of empowerment and the search for investment growth should be harmonised."

Mugabe, who recently visited Latin America, is in search of new economic partners and revitalisation of South-South cooperation to "prepare to confront the globalisation menace which is threatening to swallow economies of the weaker countries."

Both Mugabe and Mahathir have recently taken swipes at the IMF and World Bank over their policies which are seen as destructive. Mugabe described the IMF as "that creature." His use of South-South cooperation instead of North-South signals a shift in thinking away from Western-nation dominance.

Tanazanian President, Benjamin Mkapa, in a speech read on his behalf, said Africa would not escape globalisation "but we must stand up for our interests and ask, globalisation under what terms and to what end." He urged Africa to safeguard its interests in the globalisation process.

"We must stop being swayed like a leaf in the wind. The time has come for a second political liberation in Africa whereby we will determine our own political dispensation and destiny that embraces universally accepted democratic norms but with African characteristics." Mr Mkapa could not attend the conference due to the serious illness of Tanzanian founding father, Julius Nyerere.

The African forum is being held against the background of crippling economic and social problems and an AIDS pandemic.

Meanwhile, at the South Pacific Forum in Palua, President Kuniwo Nakamura told the forum that Pacific nations remain too dependent on powers outside the Oceania region.

The 16-nation summit held its formal opening session in the tiny Palau Senate chanber in Koror on Sunday.

Nakamura noted the situation in East Timor and expressed concern that it could have a "destabilising effect" on the region.

One of East Timor's independence leaders, Jose Ramos Horta, has previously said he would want an independent East Timor to become a forum observer rather than join the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Agenda items included Anglo-French nuclear shipments through the Pacific, last week's nuclear accident in Japan, a proposed regional free trade zone and a unified upper atmosphere air traffic control system.

The United States and Australia are pushing centralised air traffic control coordination, either from Brisbane or Oakland in California.

The forum annually brings together leaders from Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kitibati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomons, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Australia and Fiji were absent this year along with Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, who did not attend because of a recent death in his family and the need to push forward a protracted peace process following a decade-long civil war.

Couple these events with a strategic and economic pact recently signed between China, India and Russia, and traditional trade and economic treaties and agreements such as APEC look to be under severe pressure.


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