Prime minister David Cameron arrived in Africa last Monday to sell the benefits of the free market.
He cut his tour short so he could rush back to London to deal with the European financial crisis and the phone hacking scandal.
Unfortunately for him, this limited the time he had to lecture Africans on how to run their countries.
He is accompanied by trade minister Lord Green, who heads a 25-strong corporate delegation.
Green got his experience of the free market as head of the HSBC bank when it cut more than 6,000 jobs in the US as one of the main subprime lenders.
The head of Barclays bank, Bob “don’t apologise” Diamond, and Vodafone chief Vittorio Colao, whose company’s tax avoidance schemes led to protests across Britain, are also part of the junket.
Cameron started with a moan about people who protest for debt relief or organised concerts to raise funds for aid.
He said, “They have never once had a march or a concert to call for what will in the long term save far more lives and do far more good—an African free trade area.”
But there’s nothing fresh about imposing the free market on Africa.
Structural adjustment programmes demanding free trade have been imposed by the International Monetary Fund since the 1980s.
These programmes outlaw subsidies and price controls on staple goods. This opens up economies to foreign firms and drives local producers to the wall.
Indeed, they are a major reason why hunger has increased across the continent.
Cameron is right that many African economies have grown faster than those of European countries.
But even before the economic crisis, a report by Save the Children in 2008 detailed the results of the kind of policies Cameron is pushing.
To take one example, “While a small elite has benefited from Angola’s abundant oil revenues, this resource has not brought benefits to the vast majority of the population and the country still has the second highest mortality rate in the world, at 260 deaths per 1,000 live births.”
Any African who wants an end to oppression, war or starvation should run a mile when Cameron approaches.