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Excerpt from an interview for The Foreign Policy Centre (8/02/01), a London-based foreign policy think-tank set up by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.


 

Foreign Policy Centre: How can the West best help Africa?


Emeagwali: Africa needs to leapfrog from the Agricultural Age to the Information Age. While Africa has more natural resources than the West, the West has more human resources than Africa. Therefore, the West can help Africa to develop its intellectual capital. It is knowledge and information that will alleviate the poverty in Africa. Since the Internet is the escalator that will store and distribute the knowledge of the 21st century, African schools should be connected to the Net.

 

Foreign Policy Centre: How can Africa best help itself?


Emeagwali: Africa must get onboard the Internet. Right now! Africa will be either "on" to the Information Age or "off" to the dark Agricultural Age. Those nations that are "on" will become more affluent. Those that are "off" will remain poor. Africa is suffering from knowledge apartheid that forces its children to eat the crumbs from the dinner table of the information-affluent nations.

Africans must understand that sometimes you cannot get there from here. Africa cannot leapfrog into the Information Age without first embarking on a voluntary and wide scale family planning.

Africa must declare war against AIDS. One in four adult South African is infected with HIV. Yet, South Africa spends 10 percent of her budget on the military and only one percent on AIDS patients. It should spend 10 percent on AIDS patients and 1 percent on the military.

 

Foreign Policy Centre: Will Africa be better off by 2010?


Emeagwali: Twenty million Africans could die from AIDS by 2010. Therefore, Africa will be worse in ten years. Nonetheless, Africa is a continent with enormous potential. The indomitable spirit of African people enabled them to survive slavery, colonialism and apartheid. The spirit of the African people gives me hope for the future.


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