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The African Conundrum

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Economists and political pundits in the West now tout what they see as the positive benefits of globalization loosely defines as the worldwide integration of economic, cultural, political, religious, and social systems. But in the context of the so-called Third World – now called by the newest buzz words “emerging nations, the developing world etc” – globalization may well be the newest tool of neocolonialism. At best it has been a double-edged sword for struggling nations.

Of course, there are some positive aspects to globalization but it is reasonable to conclude that this new socio-economic and political configuration disproportionately benefits the developed nations of the world that have more access to technology and other resources. That is because the pace of development of these emerging nations has not kept up with that of the “First World” and there is a growing disconnect between both worlds. Africa is perhaps the best example of just how globalization has not worked for these “emerging nations.”

Africa is unquestionably a continent of vast natural resources. Yet, in 2007 this populous continent is plagued by systemic and endemic hunger, brutal, vicious “local wars,” sporadic genocides, chronic governmental corruption, untold human suffering brought on by a combination of factors that include diseases, poverty and technological backwardness. This dread scenario has prompted many to conclude that Africa is the “sick man” of the world and a looming basket case that comprise a number of failed and failing states – Zimbabwe is put in this category.

For Africa globalization has not only not worked but it has helped to perpetuate a cycle of acute underdevelopment – at all levels - that has hobbled Africa since the earliest colonial times. This conundrum is all the more perplexing given the fact that Africa has the potential to feed itself and its vast undeveloped land area holds the promise for industrialization and mechanization in agriculture.

Sadly, much of Africa’s population is riddled by poverty and its byproducts that have remained constant even as globalization created massive technological and other advancements. But Africa has been in this predicament before when in the late 17th and 18th centuries technologically advanced European powers initiated “the mad scramble for Africa.” This scramble occasioned wholesale  slaughter of Africa’s people, slavery and forced colonization that caused the warped, distorted, uneven and lop-sided development of Africa’s economies – the negative effects of which are still felt today.

With the advent of political independence Africans unprepared for European-style governance soon aped their former colonial masters and a wave of dictatorships, fragile expiremental democracies and other political hybrids ensued. Still under the influence of the former colonial masters these nominally “independent nations” looked to these European countries for help in technology, academic training, education systems and other development tools thus creating as cycle of dependence that continues unabated today. Thus, even today Africa’s former masters still have a strangle hold over their “former colonies.”

That’s why globalization has not worked for Africa and why informed, progressive scholars are convinced that it is the new neocolonial vehicle. In the aftermath of the independence movement in Africa there has been, overall, very little by way of transfer of technology to the continent that would have made for a more robust economic development and a qualitative improvement in the lives of the people.

So under these uncertain political systems Africans have failed to tap their natural resources for the benefit of the general populace. African governments have failed to come up with constructive reforms powerful enough to shape a better and prosperous future for Africans. Still, the international community cannot be left out of the responsibility for Africa's underdevelopment and suffering. Despite all the beautiful tagged roadmaps, all development plans that have been drawn to drag Africa out of its net of poverty have failed. They have turned out to be sterile plans both in conception and implementation.

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And it is not that there have not been many approaches to help solve Africa’s myriad of problems. Buttressed by a privileged, greedy and rapacious elite, many of its members schooled and trained in the same European nations that formerly ruled them, the vast majority of poor Africans have been reduced to little more than glorified slaves and vassals of this new group of “Black masters.” Africans have replaced one master for another only changing skin color in the process. This African elite has joined and conspired with its European and “First World” enablers to continue the exploitation of Africa and Africans for their own kleptomanical purposes.

Then there are the highfalutin, grandiose economic plans “made and created in Europe and America” that have been developed, packaged and organized in Washington, Paris, London and Brussels without the involvement and input of one African. This inherently western approach to Africa was and is bound to fail since it comes as a “one size fits all” methodology shoe that is unworkable based on the uniqueness and diverse social composition of Africa.

So that western governments and their aid organizations must take a lot of the blame for Africa’s sorry state of today. These impractical plans mixed with the subconscious inferiority complex of  the African ruling elite has allowed international multi-national corporations to plunder the African continent. Lacking the technological know-how Africa is today at the mercy of oil companies like Shell, BP, Texaco, Chevron and others as well as mining companies that prospect for gold, diamonds and other precious stones across Africa.

More often than not these companies “pay off” the local governments and are directly responsible for the local ruling elites getting rich, greedy and arrogant. With this money they have been able to buy arms and ammunitions instead of bread and butter. It is these heavily armed forces that brutalize, murder and maim the people to keep in power this elite that acts in its own narrow interests and that of its paymasters – the multinational corporations. This is one of the reasons why African’s are kept in poverty today.

The flip side of this coin is that more often than not “liberation groups” – some genuine some not – begin to wage wars against the ruling elites and their handlers. While they all do this in the “people’s name” the reality is that it boils down to one set of despots fighting against the other for control of the trappings of political power and money. Caught in the crossfire it is the African people who are displaced, raped, murdered and brutalized in wears that they did not start.

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Some international institutions have also deceived many African governments to privatize their most important resources with the promise that it would increase growth and spread prosperity. An example of this is the Cameroon where the national airlines company (Camair), the national electricity company (Sonel) and the national water company (Snec), just to mention some examples, have been privatized. This move has not worked so the government has increased taxes on the poor to pay for something that benefits these foreign companies that bought these national assets.

All of these methodologies, including privatization, are tools of globalization. It is clear to see that it has not worked in Africa. Today, African governments lacking the technological resources to exploit the continent’s resources have left this to international corporations who pay them and their people mere pittances when compared to what they take from the continent in huge amounts of superprofits.

So that African governments have chosen to go hat in hand begging for aid and have been trapped in an endless cycle of soaring debt obtained at usurious interest prices and unfair borrowing terms. Repayments and debt rescheduling has made sure that Africa will be a debtor continent for years to come as it continues to be exploited by the “open market forces ” of globalization. The really sad thing is that Africa is a continent that contains huge, untapped quantities of natural resources compared to other countries. Recent and continuing civil wars in Africa, notably, Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo, Sudan, Liberia have been intensified because of these natural resources basically gold and diamonds.

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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)
 

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