[Marxism] Africa's not rising, it's crashing

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Dec 14 02:19:48 MST 2012


*Africa's ridiculous 'rising' and overdue uprising*

  By Patrick Bond


  /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./



  /2) Africa owes its economic //decline//(running at more than 6
  percent 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 percent //'phantom'/
  <http://www.actionaid.org.uk/100473/real_aid_reports.html>/, anyhow --
  to most African countries//, //except to 14 'fragile states'/
  with////Washington leading further cuts/
  funding to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria//; /

  ·/tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt cancellation (of what
  was mainly unrepayable //'Odious'/
  <http://cadtm.org/Topicality-of-the-odious-debt>/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/
  5 to 8 percent 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
  <http://www.ictlogy.net/bibliography/reports/projects.php?idp=1305>/. /

  /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/
  -- from 1970-2010. /

>From /Time/ magazine's December 3 cover story comes the first 'graf (all 
that's missing is hackneyed praise 
Africa's supposedly vast new 'middle class', which in reality is a tiny 
The biases of its author, Alex Perry 
<http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2129831,00.html>, 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 
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 
<http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003328.html>, 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." 
spin-doctoring demonization of Lumumba just prior to his assassination 
by /Time /-- working closely with the CIA -- is lovingly recalled by 
Jonathan Schwarz <http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003328.html>.)

  Reading Perry or even the /DailyMaverick/
  month on a Washington-based International Institute of Finance
  <http://www.iif.com/press/press+396.php>(IIF) study of African growth
  ("It's the real thing"), one would not suspect the sub-continent is
  actually /losing/ a net 6 percent 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/.

  Description: C:\Users\User\2012\WB africa looted during 2000s.png

  The World Bank's 2011 book/The Changing Wealth of Nations/
  from where the 6 percent 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 colleagueKhadija Sharife in /Tax Us If You Can/
  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
  <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85609>countries -- in
  causing the African Resource Curse is scarce, although Perry does cite
  Marikana <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/84956>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./

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 a couple of years ago 
with the Bank's lead neoliberal economist for Africa, Shanta Davarajan 
<http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2010/08/august-10-2010.html>-- 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 
<globalwarming.house.gov/tools/assets/files/0342.pdf>estimates that 
Africa's crop revenue will fall by 90 percent by 2100. Last month even 
World Bank 
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 
from climate change each year, and Christian Aid estimates that 185 
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.

  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
  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 /up/rising, 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/
  <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/84956>/, /but there are
  other sources. Using data gathered even before Marikana, the Davos
  World Economic Forum's 2012-2013 World Competitiveness Report
  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 7^th 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.

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