Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist and former World Bank official who waged a fierce presidential campaign against the soccer star George Weah, emerged victorious on Friday in her quest to lead war-torn Liberia and become the first woman elected head of state in modern African history.
This is indeed good news, but another element of this story has struck me as even more important: international donors, tired of Liberia's corruption, have promised development aid conditionally (ht: LiberoPensiero); that is, the government of Liberia must accept close monitoring of the management of the state through GEMAP (Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program).
In direct response to the failure of the Liberian government to utilize the resources of Liberia for the benefit of the Liberian people for the past 25 years, the international community will effectively take control of government revenue and expenditure management systems in Liberia for three years.
The three major elements of GEMAP are the Economic Governance Steering Committee, which is chaired by the Liberian Head of State, The Cash Management Committee, which will be headed by a foreign expert and the Resource Management Unit, which would be headed by ten international experts.
If it works, this could create an excellent template for other countries which, through corruption, incompetence, war or famine have seen their institutions and their economies crumble. I am thinking of course of Zimbabwe, DR Congo, and many others. It might also revive international donors' enthusiasm for Africa, who have practically (and rightly) written the continent off as a bottomless well and a waste of money, by giving them some control on aid priorities and beneficiaries.
Strangely, a few months ago I wrote in a post on Zimbabwe:
In 1879, Egypt's economy was in such a shambles that the British and French governments initiated a stewardship of its finances, quickly bringing them under control. Think about it.
It should be noted that those leaders who denounce such plan as "neo-colonialist" and insist that aid money should have no strings attached, are in fact the thieves who render such measures necessary.