Scenes We’d Like to Have Seen

No comment the Nonprofiteer could make could do justice to the work of "Hanniford Schmidt," who last weekend passed himself off as a representative of the World Trade Organization at a Wharton Business School conference on trade with Africa and in that guise proposed "re-privatizing" labor–that is, reestablishing slavery–as the cure for the continent’s economic woes.  (See below the press release describing Schmidt’s conduct, along with the red-faced disclaimer by the Wharton conference organizers.)

Despite the official-looking links, is not the Website of the World Trade Organization (formerly known as GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) but of the Yes-Men, a group of political commentators-cum-performance artists whose members masquerade as officials of various powerful groups to deliver statements which are the logical extreme of things those groups believe.  In this case, for instance, the argument that the cure for African poverty is people ownership is a spin-off of the perfectly serious claim that the cure for extinction and other threats to wildlife is for people who like wild animals to purchase the beasts for their own protection. 

The Nonprofiteer defies any charity or advocacy group to do more to validate the worth of the nonprofit sector, or to offer a better critique of the notion that the free market will do all, than these brave lads and lasses. 

>November 13, 2006
>US Trade Representative to Africa, Governor of Nigeria Central Bank
>weigh in at Wharton
>     Text, photos, video:
>     WTO Contact: Hanniford Schmidt (
>     Conference website:
>     Conference contacts:
>Philadelphia – At a Wharton Business School conference on business in
>Africa, World Trade Organization representative Hanniford Schmidt
>announced the creation of a WTO initiative for "full private
>stewardry of labor" for the parts of Africa that have been hardest
>hit by the 500 years of Africa’s free trade with the West.
>The initiative will require Western companies doing business in some
>parts of Africa to own their workers outright. Schmidt recounted how
>private stewardship has been successfully applied to transport,
>power, water, traditional knowledge, and even the human genome. The
>WTO’s "full private stewardry" program will extend these successes to
>(re)privatize humans themselves.
>"Full, untrammelled stewardry is the best available solution to
>African poverty, and the inevitable result of free-market theory,"
>Schmidt told more than 150 attendees. Schmidt acknowledged that the
>stewardry program was similar in many ways to slavery, but explained
>that just as "compassionate conservatism" has polished the rough
>edges on labor relations in industrialized countries, full stewardry,
>or "compassionate slavery," could be a similar boon to developing
>The audience included Prof. Charles Soludo (Governor of the Central
>Bank of Nigeria), Dr. Laurie Ann Agama (Director for African Affairs
>at the Office of the US Trade Representative), and other notables.
>Agama prefaced her remarks by thanking Scmidt for his macroscopic
>perspective, saying that the USTR view adds details to the WTO’s
>general approach. Nigerian Central Bank Governor Soludo also
>acknowledged the WTO proposal, though he did not seem to appreciate
>it as much as did Agama.
>A system in which corporations own workers is the only free-market
>solution to African poverty, Schmidt said. "Today, in African
>factories, the only concern a company has for the worker is for his
>or her productive hours, and within his or her productive years," he
>said. "As soon as AIDS or pregnancy hits–out the door. Get sick, get
>fired. If you extend the employer’s obligation to a 24/7, lifelong
>concern, you have an entirely different situation: get sick, get
>care. With each life valuable from start to finish, the AIDS scourge
>will be quickly contained via accords with drug manufacturers as a
>profitable investment in human stewardees. And educating a child for
>later might make more sense than working it to the bone right now."
>To prove that human stewardry can work, Schmidt cited a proposal by a
>free-market think tank to save whales by selling them. "Those who
>don’t like whaling can purchase rights to specific whales or groups
>of whales in order to stop those particular whales from getting
>whaled as much," he explained. Similarly, the market in Third-World
>humans will "empower" caring First Worlders to help them, Schmidt
>said. (
>One conference attendee asked what incentive employers had to remain
>as stewards once their employees are too old to work or reproduce.
>Schmidt responded that a large new biotech market would answer that
>worry. He then reminded the audience that this was the only possible
>solution under free-market theory.
>There were no other questions from the audience that took issue with
>Schmidt’s proposal.
>During his talk, Schmidt outlined the three phases of Africa’s 500-
>year history of free trade with the West: slavery, colonialism, and
>post-colonial markets. Each time, he noted, the trade has brought
>tremendous wealth to the West but catastrophe to Africa, with poverty
>steadily deepening and ever more millions of dead. "So far there’s a
>pattern: Good for business, bad for people. Good for business, bad
>for people. Good for business, bad for people. That’s why we’re so
>happy to announce this fourth phase for business between Africa and
>the West: good for business–GOOD for people."
>The conference took place on Saturday, November 11. The panel on
>which Schmidt spoke was entitled "Trade in Africa: Enhancing
>Relationships to Improve Net Worth." Some of the other panels in the
>conference were entitled "Re-Branding Africa" and "Growing Africa’s
>Appetite." Throughout the comments by Schmidt and his three
>co-panelists, which lasted 75 minutes, Schmidt’s stewardee, Thomas
>Bongani-Nkemdilim, remained standing at respectful attention off to
>the side.
>"This is what free trade’s all about," said Schmidt. "It’s about the
>freedom to buy and sell anything–even people."
>                           # 30 #

Please note:

A panelist for the Wharton Africa Business Forum misrepresented himself as being affiliated with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Based on that misrepresentation, the individual was invited to speak at the Forum, which was held on November 11, 2006 in


. As soon as the conference organizers realized the misrepresentation perpetrated by this individual, the other panelists were immediately informed. Neither the conference organizers nor The Wharton School had or has any association with the individual nor do they endorse the individual’s views.


Executive Team

Wharton Africa Business Forum


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