Monday, April 14, 2014

Accumulation By Dispossession - BRICS and AFRICA

The centuries-old looting of Africa, followed by the conference in Berlin that from 1885 began the ‘Scramble for Africa’, is being repeated now in a predatory attack by BRICS countries on the continent’s resources. Large corporations from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are not committed to development for ordinary people – whether in the homeland or the victim countries. As BRICS penetrate further into Africa, the winners consist of multinational and parastatal corporations, including some based in the industrialised countries – e.g. the Walmart retail empire – which purchase semi-processed inputs or finished goods from BRICS, along with local elites who lubricate the looting through corruption, cost overruns, and access to our cheapest electricity supplies.

Many African countries, if not all, are located at the extreme end of what Immanuel Wallerstein thirty years ago termed the core-periphery relationship, a position which impoverishes them to the advantage of rich and industrialised countries in the core. BRICS countries represent sub-imperialists trying to improve their relative location in the world system, perhaps moving toward imperialist power and thereafter even to imperialist superpower status, as the USSR once enjoyed. These countries have different levels of economic development and political influence, vested interests in the African continent and the DRC in particular, and geopolitical positions in world politics.

But they all share four characteristics. First, BRICS countries present important opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI) which, drawn towards mega developments like the Congo River Inga Hydropower Project or towards minerals and petroleum extraction, impoverish the same people that they should empower. Impoverishment occurs through dispossession of natural resources with little or no compensation, unequal shares of the costs and benefits of mega development projects, repayments of debts incurred to build these projects, and structural exclusion from accessing the outcomes of these initiatives.

Second, BRICS countries share the same modus operandi at their different stages of imperialism, either as countries which have been active in Africa for a very long time (Russia and China); newly arrived (India); or playing their traditional sub-imperialist countries (Brazil and South Africa). The pattern is similar: accumulation by dispossession is taking place through abuse of local politics, national elites, warlords, and war economies, as in the eastern side of the DRC, where between BRICS and the West as consumers of the resulting mineral outflows, six million or more deaths have been the result.

Third, BRICS countries share the same interests in natural resources including but not limited to mining, gas, oil and mega-dam projects for water and for electricity to meet their increasing demands for cheap and abundant electricity. They are also actively involved in the search for new markets, and hence they promote construction of roads, railways, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. But this infrastructure is often indistinguishable from colonial-era projects, meant to more quickly extract primary products for the world market.

Fourth, BRICS countries have poor records of environmental regulation. There is virtually no commitment to mitigate climate change and invest in truly renewable energy, to take environmental impact assessments seriously, and to consult with and compensate adversely affected communities.

There is desperation in the air as a result of the following: three BRICS countries having crashed in 2013 (South Africa, Brazil and India) to join the ‘fragile five’ (Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey); Russia crashing in March 2014 thanks to the implications of its Ukranian political and Crimean land grab, following China’s surprising trade deficit in February 2014 as many of its major industrial companies lowered their production. The prices of important commodities such as copper and iron are falling, as a result. The BRICS appear to need new market niches for trade, along with cheap energy through oil, coal and hydroelectricity, which can assist in lower-cost extraction and transportation. But each BRICS country is different.

For details of each BRICS' countries dealings in Africa GO HERE

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