Compliance offering a fair deal for developing economies?

Honorary Consul, at Consulate of Bulgaria to the Republic of Ghana, Nico C.M. van Staalduinen

We all know Africa is not Europe and Ghana is not Germany, France or just another European country.

The developed countries; Europe, The United States, Japan and others are pushing and insisting on African developing countries to work according their standards and insist on compliance of all kind of rules and regulation to be able to export to them.

Funny (or actually sad) enough they often connect conditions, even when we don’t export to them, to grants and subsidies. Indeed it sounds like Mr. Trump’s “quid pro quo”.

But has anybody ever questioned how fair this is to these developing economies?

Let me describe a bit how these developed economies developed themselves over the last centuries and who set the standards to them and who enforced compliance.

The European powers in the 16, 17, 18 and 19 centuries laid the bases of their development by trade wars and colonialism in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Americas, allowing their large trade companies to do almost everything necessary to establish Trade and Power in the interest of their nations.

They allowed them to use almost anything needed to enforce power including: Slavery, Piracy, Drug Trade, Land grabs, Murder, Killing and expelling native populations, theft and any other thing needed to establish power and trade in the name of their countries and economies.

Now that’s indeed a long time ago, but still it had build a few multinational companies which still exist today.

The first of August 1834 won’t mean a lot to most of us in Africa but I does in the Americas because it marks the official end of Slavery as accepted in the United Kingdom.

This was at the same time the first law in the world that can be marked as a Compliance act.

The reason for that was the United Kingdom’s government allowed the British navy to intercept any vessel that engaged in the act of transportation of slaves, no matter what nationality or flag the ship was sailing under.

In today’s world the Developed Countries don’t engage in all these horrible activities of the past anymore.

So that part of compliance is easy to explain and understand.

Let’s get closer to compliance and standards where we are today.

I am slightly older (61 years) than many of my readers and I had the privilege to grow up in a past second WWII (world war 2) developing Europe during the 1960s and 1970s.

Do you, people in my (new) home country Ghana, have any idea how The Netherlands was during that time?

I lived in a street with a river in the middle of about 300 houses where in 1968 only 2 people had a car and our neighbor was the only person with a black and white TV. A normal working week was 6 days at 9 hours a day. An official minimum wage was only established in 1968 at 193 Euro a month being 1,190 Cedis a month.

Nobody was talking about rights of access of disabled people because in my youth they were also carried up and down steps just like in Ghana today.

Clean petrol stations didn’t exist and dirty oil often was just poured on the floor and covered with sand until it disappeared in the ground under it.

There were hardly any safety regulation in construction and other dangerous sectors. In the 1960s the most dangerous job around the world was fishing because of lack of any safety regulations.

Food safety meant cleaning well after work, and washing your hands when working in food sector was rare. HACCP didn’t exist.

Nobody in Europe was complying to what we have to comply to today.

In fact no European country was complying and could comply to the regulations they want us to comply to today.

Europe and the Netherlands were still rebuilding their economies from the damage of the Second World War and lack of all these regulations helped companies in all sectors to invest only in growth and profit and not in safety, welfare of employees, climate or other problems or sectors.

Today Europe and many other countries are well developed, and in my eyes sometimes overdeveloped that they even start to become a nuisance to their own population with some laws and regulations limiting the basic freedom of their citizens.

Today the developing economies live in an environment where almost everything is regulated up to the official size and shape a banana must have.

Europeans and Americans have developed standards and are enforcing compliance for almost every good and service they need and provide and they force suppliers (and countries that enjoy their grants) to enforce their compliance laws mostly with penalties like: not allowing to export to them, not giving grants and like recently happened with Cameroon a complete cancellation of trade benefits.

I understand the need of compliance to enhance food security for developing countries; after all they have weakened themselves so much with all their hygiene rules and regulations that many of them can’t stand our normal African food.

But it remains a fact that all these compliance rules are slowing our developing countries’ growth and development.

As I earlier wrote when these European economies laid the foundation of their wealth and later economic growth nobody “disturbed” them about safety on the work floor, child labor, minimum wage, access for disabled people, equal pay, pollution prevention, road safety etc, etc.

When all of today’s economic giants were developing, compliance rules didn’t exit and nobody was trying to enforce anything other than a quality product.

Today the same economic giants are asking and also trying to push Africa to contribute on tackling pollution and the world’s environment and many other things. Before you know their “advice” will also end up in compliance rules whilst most of the pollution was and still is a result of unhindered economic growth of the developed countries.

I am not saying that compliance should disappear completely, but I think that Ghana and other African nations should ask and insist on giving their economies a period of lenience on implementation of compliance rules for at least 10 years.

This will enable Ghana and Africa to grow and invest in local companies who can use that advantage to grow faster until our economies can afford to comply.

The only other solution for our future is to concentrate on South-South business development and concentrating on our African Free Trade possibilities which should allow us less or unconditional growth first and let us have the financial capacity to grow until we can afford the world’s standards of compliance.

Columnist: Nico C.M. van Staalduinen

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