Join Friends of Pambazuka

Subscribe for Free!



Fahamu Bulletin Archive

News about our programmes 30, Sept. 2014

Donate to Pambazuka News!

Follow Us

delicious bookmarks facebook twitter

Pambazuka News Pambazuka News is produced by a pan-African community of some 2,600 citizens and organisations - academics, policy makers, social activists, women's organisations, civil society organisations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators who together produce insightful, sharp and thoughtful analyses and make it one of the largest and most innovative and influential web forums for social justice in Africa.

Latest titles from Pambazuka Press

African Sexualities

Earth Grab A Reader
Sylvia Tamale
A groundbreaking book, accessible but scholarly, by African activists. It uses research, life stories and artistic expression to examine dominant and deviant sexualities, and investigate the intersections between sex, power, masculinities and femininities
Buy now

Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya

From Citizen to Refugee Horace Campbell
In this elegantly written and incisive account, scholar Horace Campbell investigates the political and economic crises of the early twenty-first century through the prism of NATO's intervention in Libya.
Buy now

Queer African Reader

Demystifying Aid Edited by Sokari Ekine, Hakima Abbas
A diverse collection of writing from across the continent exploring African LGBTI liberation: identity, tactics for activism, international solidarity, homophobia and global politics, religion and culture, and intersections with social justice movements. A richness of voices, a multiplicity of discourses, a quiverful of arguments. African queers writing for each other, theorising ourselves, making our ...more
Buy now

China and Angola

African Awakening A Marriage of Convenience?
Edited by Marcus Power, Ana Alves
This book focuses on the increased co-operation between Angola and China and shows that although relations with China might have bolstered regime stability and boosted the international standing of the Angolan government, China is not regarded as a long term strategic partner.
Buy now

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

To Cook a ContinentWalter Rodney
Rodney shows how the imperial countries of Europe, and subsequently the US, bear major responsibility for impoverishing Africa. They have been joined in this exploitation by agents or unwitting accomplices both in the North and in Africa.
Buy now

Pambazuka News Broadcasts

Pambazuka broadcasts feature audio and video content with cutting edge commentary and debate from social justice movements across the continent.

AU MONITOR

This site has been established by Fahamu to provide regular feedback to African civil society organisations on what is happening with the African Union.

Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa: December 2011 newsletter

Deborah Brautigam provides an overview and description of China's development finance to Africa. "Looking at the nature of Chinese development aid - and non-aid - to Africa provides insights into China's strategic approach to outward investment and economic diplomacy, even if exact figures and strategies are not easily ascertained", she states as she describes China's provision of grants, zero-interest loans and concessional loans. Pambazuka Press recently released a publication titled India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power, and Oliver Stuenkel provides his review of the book.
The December edition available here.

The 2010 issues: September, October, November, December, and the 2011 issues: January, February, March , April, May , June , July , August , September, October and November issues are all available for download.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Features

Africa’s ridiculous ‘rising’ and overdue uprising

Patrick Bond

2012-12-13, Issue 610

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85767

Bookmark and Share

Printer friendly version

In some quarters it is believed Africa is ‘rising’ due to a commitment to export-oriented, petro-minerals-centric, finance-driven ideologies. Patrick Bond questions such a paradigm and argues that hope lies in the popcorn protests in Africa

Either:

1) Africa owes its takeoff to a variety of accelerators, nearly all of them external and occurring in the past 10 years:
• billions of dollars in aid, especially to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria;
• tens of billions of dollars in foreign-debt cancellations;
• a concurrent interest in Africa’s natural resources, led by China; and
• the rapid spread of mobile phones, from a few million in 2000 to more than 750 million today.
Business increasingly dominates foreign interest in Africa. Investment first outpaced aid in 2006 and now doubles it.

Or:

2) Africa owes its economic decline (running at more than 6 per cent of gross income per year once nonrenewable resource depletion is considered) to a variety of accelerators, nearly all of them external and occurring in the past centuries during which slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism locked in the continent’s underdevelopment, but several of which – along with climate change – were amplified in recent years:

• stagnant overseas development aid – around 60 per cent ‘phantom’, anyhow – to most African countries, except to 14 ‘fragile states’), with Washington leading further cuts in funding to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria;
• tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt cancellation (of what was mainly unrepayable ‘Odious’ loans to dictators) in 2005 yet at the same time a squeeze on low-income African finance ministries that immediately afterwards caused a dramatic rise in debt repayments (from 5 to 8 per cent of export earnings);
• a concurrent looting of Africa’s natural resources, led by China and the West, resulting in dramatic recent falls in mineral and petroleum wealth (when calculated as ‘Adjusted Net Saving’ to incorporate resource-stripping); and
• the rapid spread of mobile phones, which because of high costs and low internet connectivity, has done very little to solve the digital divide.
Banking increasingly dominates foreign interest in Africa, as elite disinvestment into Western and Eastern financial markets continues to outpace aid and investment, amounting to an estimated $1.4 trillion in capital flight from the continent – both SubSaharan and North ends – from 1970-2010.

AFRICA LOSING OUT

From Time magazine’s December 3 cover story comes the first ‘graf (all that’s missing is hackneyed praise of Africa’s supposedly vast new ‘middle class’, which in reality is a tiny group). The biases of its author, Alex Perry, are out of control. In 2010, intoned Perry, ‘Independent Congo gave the world Mobutu Sese Seko, who for 32 years impoverished his people while traveling the world in a chartered Concorde.’ Rebutted Julie Hollar of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, ‘If you’re going to charge Congo with being ‘what’s wrong with Africa,’ you’d better give credit where credit is due. Independent Congo didn’t give the world Mobutu; that gift belongs to the US and Belgium, who supported the overthrow and assassination of democratically-elected Patrice Lumumba and helped prop up the horror that was Mobutu for decades afterward.’ Replied Perry, without irony, ‘The idea that the US created Mobutu and maintained him in power belittles Africans and is typical of the kind of racism that dogs analysis of Africa.’ This was two years after Perry authored another DRC story for Time, ‘Come Back, Colonialism, All Is Forgiven.’ (The spin-doctoring demonization of Lumumba just prior to his assassination by Time – working closely with the CIA – is lovingly recalled by Jonathan Schwarz.)

Reading Perry or even the DailyMaverick report last month on a Washington-based International Institute of Finance (IIF) study of African growth (‘It’s the real thing’), one would not suspect the sub-continent is actually losing a net 6 per cent of our continent’s gross national income each year thanks to the Resource Curse. But we are, if we take seriously recent recalibrations of Gross Domestic Product that measure raw materials stripped from Africa’s soil not just as once-off credits to GDP, but also as debits: the decline in ‘natural capital’ that occurs because the minerals and petroleum are non-renewable.



The World Bank’s 2011 book The Changing Wealth of Nations – from where the 6 present figure comes – is rather conservative in calculating non-renewable resource depletion, leaving out several important minerals, and also neglecting the tax fraud and transfer pricing associated with transnational capital. These problems are documented by my colleague Khadija Sharife in Tax Us If You Can and by Leonce Ndikumana and James Boyce in various studies of capital flight that deserve much more attention, e.g. their recent book on Africa’s Odious Debts.

According to the Changing Wealth of Nations, even South Africa’s annual ‘adjusted net savings’ – correcting income especially for the value of minerals stripped from the soil and never again available for future generations –was negative R2150 per person in 2005, a figure that has no doubt worsened since. In contrast, the wealth of resource-based countries Canada and Australia soared because their extraction is done largely by home-grown companies that reinvest and return profits to local shareholders; most of the extractive corporations operating here send profits to London, New York, Melbourne and Toronto.

In most Afro-optimist reports, information about the role of these firms – whether from the West or BRICS countries – in causing the African Resource Curse is scarce, although Perry does cite Marikana as indicative of South African crony capitalism. Yet most such authors are informed by export-oriented, petro-minerals-centric, finance-driven ideologies, and Time is no exception (perhaps for advertising-related reasons). To illustrate, other telling quotes Perry uses this week are from the inimitable Bob Geldof:

‘Africa is in the midst of a historic transition, and during the next few decades hundreds of millions of Africans will likely be lifted out of poverty, just as hundreds of millions of Asians were in the past few decades. Bob Geldof’s evolution from Live Aid organizer to, this February, the founder of a $200 million Africa-focused private-equity fund is emblematic of the transformation. ‘This could be the African century,’ he says. ‘There is a new Great Game being played out in Africa,’ says Geldof. ‘Yet much of the West ignores this geostrategic giant’ That will inevitably change. Mozambique’s offshore Rovuma-1 block has bigger natural gas reserves than all of Libya, while initial estimates are that Somalia has as much oil as Kuwait. The continent has 60% of the world’s unused arable land. As Geldof says, ‘In the end, we all have to go to Africa. They have what we need.’ And it is in that second scramble for Africa that the continent’s best hopes lie, because if the first scramble for Africa – as historians dubbed the period from the 1870s to 1900 – was a European imperialist carve-up, the second should leave Africa as the big winner.’

AN ‘AFRICAN CENTURY?’

More likely, Africans will be the big losers of a BRICS sub-imperialist carve-up of the continent’s land, minerals and hydrocarbons. More likely, Durban in March 2013 and subsequent BRICS summits will resemble, economically, the political deals of Berlin in 1885. ‘They have what we need’ says it all. This debate – which I had argued a couple of years ago with the Bank’s lead neoliberal economist for Africa, Shanta Davarajan – is critical to assessing whether the continent wins or loses from the status quo.

Under these circumstances, an ‘African century’? Moreover, with climate change causing only a 2 degree average warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that Africa’s crop revenue will fall by 90 present by 2100. Last month even World Bank president Jim Yong Kim expressed concern about a 4 degree rise, ‘which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes’ (including his own institution’s world-leading financing of fossil fuels, which appears set to continue). Already 400 000 die from climate change each year, and Christian Aid estimates that 185 million Africans will perish this century. As the Doha COP18 and Durban COP17 and every other climate gathering shows, those with power from Washington and Brussels to Beijing and Pretoria don’t really care. Neither Perry nor the IIF mention climate change even in passing.

LOOTING AFRICA CONTINUES

Much more could be added about the other ‘ecological debts’ owed by the Western and Eastern corporations to Africa (as well as other non-remunerated value transfers), the continent’s excessive financial and trade integration into a volatile world economy, the propping up of Africa’s dictators and parasitical elites by Barack Obama and other Western and Eastern elites, and so many more processes of extreme uneven and combined development that contribute to the looting of Africa.

But so as to not end in despair, it is also crucial to recall growing evidence of Africa uprising, from Egypt and Tunisia, to Senegal and Nigeria, to Kenya and Uganda, to the militant poor and working people of southern African. The best information about the continent's social struggles comes from the ezine Pambazuka, but there are other sources. Using data gathered even before Marikana, the Davos World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 World Competitiveness Report gave SA workers the gold medal for class struggle, against 143 competitors, a soaring improvement over the 2011-12 rating of South Africans as only the world’s 7th most feisty workers. It is the intensity of these Africans’ critique of status quo political economy – and perhaps, soon, a growing breadth and depth, as strike committees fuse with community groups and environmentalists to transcend South Africa’s fabled popcorn protests – that provide the only real hope for a durable rising by a very oppressed continent’s peoples.

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

* Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society.


Readers' Comments

Let your voice be heard. Comment on this article.




↑ back to top

ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition http://www.pambazuka.org/en/

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português http://www.pambazuka.org/pt/

© 2009 Fahamu - http://www.fahamu.org/