Mimicking the West will never develop Africa

Since 2007/8 the world is experiencing an ongoing economic and financial crisis which does not seem to end tomorrow. Symptoms countries and markets under which the global economy operates appear to be structural rather than incidental. It is well documented Africa’s part in international trade, all sectors inclusively, is not significant, despite the continent being a source of important quantities of raw materials for capitalist multinationals. The weak position of Africa combined with poor governance in general makes its populations rank at the bottom of the world poverty index.

For a decade or so, African leaders have tried to address the situation. But there are critical issues needed confronting to expect some positive outcome from efforts being put into the exercise. The following extract is from a paper by Professor Dani W. Nabudere called, ‘Towards a new model of production – an alternative to NEPAD.‘ It explains where the problems lie.

In April 2000, the author of a leading cover article in the Economist entitled: ‘Africa: the Hopeless Continent’ [April 14th, 2000] argued that Africa can never make it in the rapidly globalizing world, if the continent’s leaders do not stop mimicking the colonial system they inherited. The article, although it contained a lot contradictory analyses, was nevertheless insightful in this respect. It noted that the expectations that had been generated by the “new breed” of African leaders for democracy and economic reform and which gave rise to the idea of an African renaissance had turned out to be ‘an illusion.’ It argued that the most damaging aspect of European imperial rule in Africa had not been political or even economic but psychological in that European colonial rule in Africa had lasted just a couple of generations but that this was ‘long enough to undermine African societies, institutions and values.’ It added that this was not long enough to replace these values with new ways of life or establish new systems of government.’ It added quite correctly that colonialism had undermined ‘Africa’s self-confidence’ in the process.

In a criticism that can be equated to the African leaders attempt to replace the post-colonial economic and political arrangements with their former colonial powers with the NEPAD, the author of the article pointed out that the African nationalist elite, which rushed to take over power in the post-independence period, did not deconstruct the colonial state, nor reconstitute a completely new national state. They merely proclaimed ‘national unity and denounced tribalism.’ But they soon found, like the imperial powers before them, that ‘manipulating tribal affiliations was essential to preserving power.’ These leaders even went further to personalize power through patronage and clientism. By so doing they undermined rather that boosted national institutions. The author came to the crux of the matter when he observed:

‘The African ruler finds himself trapped. He wants power and control; but the outside world (of capital-DWN) makes demands about democracy, human rights, and good governance, which weakens his position and could cost him his job. If he cannot use the treasury as his private bank account and the police as his private army, he tries to create alternative sources of wealth and power. This is why more and more African rulers are turning their countries into shell states’ [Ibid].

The author of the article tries to find a solution to this kind of dilemma of the African post-colonial state and the political elite at its helm. He asks the question whether Africa can change this situation and his answer is in the affirmative: ‘Yes, Africa can change’. He points to the possibilities of economic growth, which can come out of change but profoundly adds: ‘but real change needs something deeper than quick spurts of growth’:

‘More than anything, Africa’s people need to regain their self-confidence. Only then can Africa engage as an equal with the rest of the world, devising its own economic programmes and development policies. Its people also need the self-confidence to trust each other. Only then can they make deals to end wars and build political institutions; institutions that they actually believe in’ [Ibid].

If this is to happen, then we have to be serious in creating conditions for a real deep African renaissance that does not build on the fragile and oppressive structures of the European-created post-colonial `shell states.’ Shell states cannot deliver, nor can they generate and support an African rebirth. They have, in any case, become ‘failed states’ as well as ‘weak states’-weakened by the very processes of neo-colonial oppression and exploitation that NEPAD seeks to remedy through ‘capacity building!’ The ‘renaissance’ envisaged by such states and such a weak and dependent political leadership cannot in fact come about. That elite which has lost the self-confidence to deconstruct’ and reconstitute the post-colonial and post-apartheid states cannot build an African renaissance.

In that case, such an African renaissance must come from the people themselves, inspired by a new intellectual and political leadership that can chart a new path for themselves. Through their continued struggles, they can deconstruct and reconstitute the post-colonial and post-apartheid state, creating new pan-African institutions and agencies that reflect their needs, aspirations and capabilities. Only then can the African people find respect from the rest of humanity and thereby rehumanise the world through a liberation of their society.

First and foremost, the new Pan-Africanism must be people-centred. The African Union, which is being formed to replace the OAU, cannot bring about the required unity of the African people and its Diaspora to regain their self-confidence. It follows that only a cultural movement that aims at a political reunification of the African people and the people of African descent in the Diaspora is the key to generation of the necessary enthusiasm for an African renaissance, rebirth, and recovery of memory. This reunification is only possible on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation between African peoples and the international community, which is a precondition for a cessation of conflicts on the continent, and the unleashment of its human potential. A study of the relationship between Africa and its Diaspora therefore becomes imperative as the only basis on which such unity and cooperation can be achieved both spiritually and institutionally.

This spirit of pan-Africanism does not inform NEPAD’s short and long-term perspectives. The leaders believe that the programmes they have designed can be achieved on the basis of two strategies. One in which certain projects, such as infrastructure and energy, will be implemented as ‘continental projects,’ while others will be handled by ‘national’ institutions but through the existing regional economic institutions as ‘building blocks.’ Both strategies are flawed. To be sure, continental projects will not take off without continental institutions that have the power and political leadership to implement them within each of the numerous states. They will clash with the ‘national sovereignty’ of each of the member states and the interests of the elites governing them. In short, these projects will simply be avenues for extortion by national political and administrative bureaucracies who will have to collaborate in their implementation. The strategy will fail and even weaken further the enthusiasm that may have been generated for the regional projects under the project of territorialism and continentalism.

Secondly, regional integration schemes and arrangements have failed to take off, despite the good intentions that they would constitute ‘building blocks’ for a Pan-African state. They have been flawed by the very ideologies of market integration that characterize our relationships between African and the developed world. Using ‘free trade’ formulations as their guiding principles, they have failed to generate industrial production that is complementary. As a result member states have ended up trading in the same goods and services related to their position in the world markets as producers of raw materials and primary products, whose prices decline as those of the manufactured goods they import rise. Intra-African trade between member states has declined as that with the developed world has marginally increased. African economies, instead of establishing ‘backward and forward linkages’ within their internal production have instead been vertically integrated by transnational corporations of the G8 countries. With this kind of result on which NEPAD wants to build, there is clearly a basis for a completely new vision for Africa’s rebirth.

The author of the paper carries on highlighting areas that could significantly lift up Africa by giving out sufficient details to guide required policies. These areas are

  1. Epistemological foundations
  2. Creating registers and directories of African natural resources
  3. Mobilizing African people into federated states
  4. Building on existing capital resources in the communities
  5. Domesticating African savings
  6. Deploying pension funds
  7. Reducing the African brain drain
  8. Attracting African Diasporian capital
  9. Reparations

To read the entire source document, please click here .


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