Monday, May 22, 2017

Africa not rising

Africa has an abundance of land and natural resources. With a population of over a billion people occupying a land area of 30.37million km², Africa is the second largest continent in the world. It is also home to most of the world’s deposits of uranium, gold, diamonds, oil and gas,and has large tracts of arable land.

Post-independent African countries have witnessed a host of civil wars, internecine conflicts and political instability.A no small measure can be placed on  the colonial policy of divide and rule - and define and rule, as political commentator and historian Mahmood Mamdani would put it - the arbitrary demarcation of borders, the reification of tribes as a marker of identity and the struggle for control over scarce economic opportunities have combined to weaken state capacity for social cohesion, nation-building and inclusive development.

In over five centuries of encounters with other parts of the world, Africa’s experience has been marked by exploitation, oppression, subjugation and alteration of the distinct identities of the peoples through a long process of psychological distortions. Both the Arab and European slave trade, which lasted for centuries, effectively truncated the process of population growth, distorted economic development (through the loss of an able and young work force) and militarised the whole continent through the promotion of inter-tribal wars, as historian Walter Rodney described.

As Nigerian political scientist Claude Ake explained, the introduction of wage labour and the constraints to pay taxes resulted in the loss of opportunity to pass through an agrarian revolution, which could have been a precursor for an industrial revolution in Africa. The organisation of the global economy since the end of World War II has ensured the continuation of peripheralisation of African countries through the institutionalisation of unequal international division of labour, in which the rules of the game are set by the West and its allies.

Although the globalisation processes have created some opportunities for a few segments of African society, through access to more information, the organising principle of neo-liberal globalisation has ensured an inappropriate integration of the continent into the global capitalist order, and in an asymmetrical manner. Despite the recent optimism and euphoria about “Africa rising”, expressed mainly through the growth in Gross Domestic Product, the challenge of the lack of fundamental transformation in the structures of the economies of virtually all the countries has led to a short-lived experience. Many of the fast-growing economies of early 2000s are back in the throes of debt, poverty and inequality. African economies are effectively performing below their potential.  African leaders have been complicit in the marginalisation of the continent. Many of them have stolen their countries blind, while many others have continued to serve as surrogates of the West in acting as destabilising agents in their respective countries. African leaders  prefer allegiance with their former colonial masters or resort to their facile national patriotic base when issues of international diplomacy and negotiations are involved.

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