Why Bill Gates evades the important question of democracy
From Awramba Times Editorial Desk
Bill Gates, a man who hardly needs an introduction, recently visited Ethiopia to assess the development situation on the ground. He came back with very positive reviews and had this to say on his website, The Gates Notes: “One factor in Ethiopia’s progress is Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his leadership team, who have played a key role in reinventing the country’s agricultural and health systems.” The billionaire and philanthropist’s Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helps farmers in Ethiopia produce better quality crops and maximize their profits. In March, Gates got a tour of these policies in action, first in Addis Ababa to meet with key government partners, and then on to two health and agriculture focused trips. From the testimony, videos and photos he posted on the site, Gates’ enthusiasm and support for Ethiopia is clear.
But he evades the important question of democracy and governance in the Horn of Africa country. Addis Ababa is on the spotlight this week as it hosts the World Economic Forum on Africa for the first time, with over 600 global participants. The topic of Thursday’s session was exactly what Gates failed to mention in the synopsis of his trip. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi joined the leaders of Nigeria, Gabon, and Namibia to discuss African leadership and the role corruption, good governance and accountability play in promoting economic growth. Can Bill Gates, his foundation and other development organizations afford to overlook Ethiopia’s governance shortcomings? World-renowned economist, Harvard University professor and Nobel Memorial Prize winner Amartya Sen spends his time researching this issue. In his book, Development as Freedom, Sen makes a link between economic development and human freedom, including political, press and social freedom. A new Africa Confidential article states, “Meles talks of a democratic development state: it is likely to prove more developmental than democratic.”
Read about Gates’ trip to Ethiopia and tell us what you think. Do democracy and development go hand in hand?