LAGOS, Nigeria – U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson called Tuesday for an African version of the Marshall Plan, saying the continent deserved reconstruction and assistance similar to that given to postwar Europe after the years of "colonial rape" it suffered.
However, Jackson later acknowledged designing a plan on such a large scale would require increased accountability in nations like oil-rich Nigeria. There, experts estimate as much as $380 billion has been embezzled from crude oil revenues since Africa's most populous nation gained its independence from Britain in 1960.
"In order for countries to overcome disparities, they need to get fair trade and favored-nation trade status to cover the ravages of war and occupation and colonization," Jackson told a legal gathering called the Kuramo Conference. "The formula was good for European reconstruction — it should apply to Africa."
The Marshall Plan, put forward by the U.S. to rebuild Europe after the war with the Axis Powers, cost roughly $13 billion at the time. Jackson offered no estimate on what a similar program aimed at road, sewer and building construction would cost across the continent, but said Western nations had an obligation to the countries they once occupied.
After his speech, Jackson told reporters that Nigeria had to demand accountability from its leaders. Its 50 years of independence was marred by coups and military dictators before the first president was democratically elected in 1999. Even elected leaders today face allegations of embezzling the OPEC nation's oil money.
"Nigeria needs allies and help," he said. "Look at the impact of its oil-trading partners, who have benefited so handsomely from a relationship that is not mutually beneficial."
Jackson acknowledged that he once benefited from Nigeria's largesse: he toured South Africa to protest apartheid in the 1980s with the financial backing of then-military dictator and current presidential aspirant Ibrahim Babangida. Babangida left power in 1993 as a reported $12 billion in oil revenues went missing.
Nigeria, home to 150 million people, is one of the top crude oil suppliers to the U.S.