US civil rights legend, Andrew Young, gives South Africa some DIY advice

Don’t count on governments to end poverty – they’re all broke
By Peter Fabricius

US civil rights legend Andrew Young jolted many in his audience at the University of Johannesburg last week when he advised them to stop counting on the government to eradicate poverty and to rely instead on themselves – and the private sector.

We’ve got to do it ourselves and we can’t hold anybody else responsible.”

Young, 87, who stood at Martin Luther King’s side in leading the civil rights movement in the 1960s and then went on to become a US Congressman, US ambassador to the UN and then mayor of Atlanta, was at the university to receive an honorary doctorate.

The degree was to pay tribute to “an icon in his own right, a legend who has inspired the global struggle for justice… and helped change the course of history…,” said Professor Alex Broadbent, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.

At a seminar before receiving the honorary degree, Young raised a few socialist eyebrows with some politically-incorrect advice about how to tackle South Africa’s social and economic ills.

The seminar discussed the role which Americans had played and could still play in developing South Africa. The focus was on how African-Americans could help black South Africans.

The South African debate on how to tackle the country’s triple scourge of poverty, unemployment and inequality usually stresses the government’s role. But Young instead emphasised self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

Sharing lessons from his eight years as Atlanta mayor between 1982 and 1990, he first gave a lot of credit to his predecessor Maynard Jackson, the city’s first black mayor, for desegregating Atlanta’s economy.

Jackson had opened the city’s economy by insisting that 25% of all businesses which participated in city projects, such as the major reconstruction of the airport and the construction of the mass transit system, should be owned by minorities or women.

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