|Geldof's short memory|
"Something must be done, even if it doesn't work," - Geldof
Bob Geldof sprung to political fame with his role in raising money for the Ethiopian famine. For these efforts Geldof received an honorary knighthood and was elevated to a spokesman for African development. But the reason for the famine was the Ethiopian government's policy to withhold food shipments to rebel areas and to spend nearly half of its gross domestic product on the military. Aid became a tool of the counter-insurgency strategy, being left to rot or distributed according to political objectives. The same political issues shape African development choices today and these, not external activism on aid, are key to the continent's future. Geldof still fails to understand that African development solutions. Geldof lauds the continent as the "coming economic giant", but it's still a very poor place, with per capita income around a tenth of the global average, and its middle-class little more than 10% of its one billion people. We hold great reservations about the idea that the goal of African economic development should be an emulation of Western capitalism and it sends a shiver through our socialist souls to hear the establishment of a consumerist bourgeoisie espoused as a positive thing.
Geldof is only the latest in a long line of Europeans who have appointed themselves as spokespersons for Africans. Who gave this pop singer the authority to speak for us? Africans want to speak for themselves. To him and his supporters, the moral argument is clear: the West is rich, Africa is poor; the West has the means to help Africa out of poverty. The argument is so simple. Through his celebrity status Geldof hopes to mobilise western public opinion to put pressure on the leaders of the capitalist world to be more benevolent to Africa. Geldof’s own personal success as a venture capitalist has led him to see Africa’s salvation in his own image. And now via his investment company he wants business leaders to put their money in Africa to create opportunities and jobs for Africans while at the same time make a great deal of profit for themselves and their share-holders. Private profit making is seen as the panacea to poverty. Geldof suffers from the Messiah syndrome; pumped up by the size of his own self-importance and inflated ego, despite his attempts at some self-effacing humour
Africa remains the object of western financial desires not the subject of its own destiny. How can one claim to want to save a people, when one is complicit in their exploitation? Geldof represents the disguised fifth-column of global capitalism. The inequalities he rails against are reproduced by the very capitalist system he supports. The problem in Africa is the impoverishment caused by capitalism what Africa needs is economic democracy and freedom. The Western media, though, loves to infantilise Africa, and present us with an image of an irresponsible, diseased and desperate place just that can't be trusted to govern itself and that Africa can only exist with a constant infusion of aid. Geldof is responsible for the propagation of a stereotype of Africans as poor, dumb, hungry and violent 'problem child'. A continent in need of saviours to descend from the sky and solve their problems by the sheer grace of their presence and the power of their dollars. Fighting poverty is useless if economic and political dictatorships remain in place. An invasion of investors that need to be government-friendly to succeed will not change anything except further prop up the despots. We do not require Geldof cheer-leading for the capitalist class to understand that sub-Saharan Africa, the world's poorest place, is also its most profitable investment destination. As far back as 2003, the World Bank's global development finance report, said the huge continent offers the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world. The returns are not for Africans though. Socialists don’t accept that slogan of “Africa Rising” but instead calls for an African Uprising. Africa is brimming over with riches. There is nothing inherently poor about this great continent. Africa remains a treasure house that can be shared by all the people.
If we fail to defend our fellow workers (irrespective of national boundaries, which the capitalists themselves long ago transcended in their ceaseless thirst to exploit cheap labour, seek new markets and hunt for raw materials), we give up any claim to our own freedom. We totally remove ourselves from the arena of class struggle and meekly submit to our own exploitation at the hands of the very same capitalists who encouraged us to snivel and cringe before our “betters”, the capitalist class, while bashing eachothers' heads in over irrelevant supposed differences in race, nationality, and religion.
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