McNamara Speaks on Africa

Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara said last night during a panel discussion on African development at the Kennedy School that the current African economic situation is a "nightmare."

"The picture that emerges when looking ahead to the next 25 years is almost a nightmare," said McNamara, who focused his remarks on the African population explosion and the hardships it is placing on the developing Sub-Saharan economy.

Babacar Ndiaye, president of the African Development Bank, delivered the main address and stressed the importance of international aid to Africa as it struggles with its current economic woes.

"Reversing the situation is difficult but not overwhelming," Ndiaye said. "The power of ideas can and should make a significant contribution."

Approximately 200 people attended the discussion which came as part of a two-day celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Edward S. Mason Program which brings together leaders from the world's developing nations and trains them at the K-School for one year.


McNamara, a past president of the World Bank and the oldest living Mason Fellow, praised Ndiaye's "revolutionization of the African Bank" and agreed that without foreign help in providing capital to the continent, Africa would remain in a "disaster situation."

"Unfortunately, every baby born doesn't bring a loan from a World Bank with it when it comes out of the womb," McNamara said. "They need capital."

"It's an absolute disgrace. I don't see how anyone in this room can sit here and tolerate it," McNamara said.

Both panelists agreed that Africa also needs more skilled public policymakers to help find answers to its current situation.

"You can't flood the world with condoms," said McNamara, explaining that stemming the continent's population explosion alone would not be enough. "Africa needs political scientists devoted to developing long-term programs."