Africa: What is to be done?

By Lahai J Samboma

tom sank.jpgI have been away for a couple of days doing this and that and so could not post. And today, I have been blogging elsewhere - and I enjoyed myself very much, thank you. It is only fair that I should share with you, gentle reader, my input into the debate I was involved in. It was a response to an article by a writer who was essentially plugging his new book. Here it is:

Problem of Leadership

You make a very poignant point abouth the problem in Africa being the leadership. I could not agree with you more. A close second to that has been the defective, exploitative and so-called laissez-faire economic prescriptions foisted on the region by the neo-colonialist bastions of the IMF and World Bank.

With the right calibre of leadership, Africa would be able to pull itself out of poverty and underdevelopment without the so-called genorosity of Western governments, which get more out of Africa than the other way round.

The imperialist and neocolonialist economic straitjacket within which Africa finds itself is syphoning of more resources from the region than the kleptocracy ever can. This is not a defence of corruption in high African places. It is just a statement of fact.

If we had a better calibre of leadership, then both problems would be eliminated at a stroke - they would have the true interests of their people at heart and would tell the free-market economic junkies where to shove their half-baked policy prescriptions.

Regime change? Blair-Bush and co do not care one jot about freedom and democracy; that is just a convenient fictionmaumau.jpg used to cover their backs as and when needed in their imperialist expeditions. And if they tried it, they would not only have so-called "Islamic terrorists" to worry about! Remember the Mau Mau?

Anyway, the neocons are perfectly happy with the status quo in Africa. They have their weak, pliant representatives ruling on their behalf. Mugabe had promise, but he has mis-spent it. If Western regime-changers can assure us that they would put genuine PanAfricanists and socialists in the driving seats, I for one would gladly join the expeditionary force!

SouthEast Asian Economies

My dear XXX, the economies of South East Asia developed precisely because their leaders threw Western economic prescriptions out the window and imposed strict control over their economies, only gradually opening up as their economies grew and could better handle the shock and imbalances which unbridled capitalism would have delivered.

tigereconomies.jpgThe South East Asians fashioned their economic programmes - they were not imposed by people who felt they knew better than indigenes how to grow their economies. Their fledgling industries received state funding, their markets were protected with trade barriers, they had free education, health care and other social provisions for their people.

You know, of course, that the hardline communist governments in the US and the EU give huge subsidies to their farmers. They are allowed to do it, but when an African country wants to do it, it is frowned upon by you-know-who.

These are all things which people like you, so rigid in your thinking, would deny to Africans. The South East Asians had the clout and determination to take control of their economic development priorities. This goes straight to the heart of leadership and its calibre.

Words like neocolonialism and imperialism are not used for simple effect, but because they reflect the hard realities on the African ground. Our economies are little-changed from the colonial era. Then we were producers of cheap raw materials for our masters and markets for their more expensive finished products - as we are now.

This has resulted in mounting balance of trade problems, stiffling technological development and deepening poverty. The privatisation of health and education - as prescribed by the almighty World Bank and IMF - has decimated local populations and impacted on the development of human potential. I suppose you are one of the people who would want Africa to open up all it's markets to the world without regard to its industries!

Policies such as Western insistence of producing cash crops have eroded the capacities of countries to feed themselves, with the result that a country like Sierra Leone, for instance, exports cocoa and coffee, but is dependent on rice "aid". And by the way, Britain is giving "aid" to Sierra Leone to privatise water. What are the people going "buy water" with?

Your blind faith in free markets is truly admirable. I hope you are not involved in any way in the "development industry", because your views are very dangerous! I already dealt with corruption, so refer to "my previous answer".

I don't happen to be as dogmatic in my views. There is a role for the market to play in African development, but it should not be the basis of development. Let's not even talk ideology, let's talk pragmatism, let's talk "what works". And, yes, the South East Asian model is instructive. And you got your sums wrong.

The role of Industralisation

Yes, YYY, the th absence of anything one could call an industrial revolution has had its role. But here again the lack of committed and enlightened leadership has played a role, as has prescriptions imposed from outside.

When for instance the guy paying the piper wants a particular tune, that is what you play - you have to play the role apportioned to you by the intenational division of labour.

This begs the question: how come the South East Asians managed it? These are complex issues, but other variables industries.jpgthat one could look include the level of development of the human capital, access to financial capital and transfers of technological know-how.

Even now, due to current laws relating to intellectual property rights and market access for non-agricultural products, industralisation on the continent is a difficult proposition. This is exemplified by the collapse of world trade talks - where the industralised nations wanted Africa and the South to further open up markets but refused to open up theirs to non-agricultural products from the South and refusing to share know-how.

Of course their should be monitoring to ensure aid money is spent on what it was meant for. And a lot of it does end up in the kleptos' bank accounts. The problem is in the designing of the aid projects themselves. There should be local input in project design and implementation.

In many situations what happens is that the project has already been designed by the donor countries and organisations. For example, if the donor, for blind ideaological reasons has decided that the project should be the privatisation of a state company and tells you that they will only provide that aid if the project is taken as presented, what choice do you have little or no choice.

In an international environment governed by the erroneous belief that private is always good and public is always bad, it is difficult to see how things will change in the the near future. Look at what's happened to Britain's rail network after privatisation. You can have a well-managed state enterprise that can be self-sustaining.

Sudan and Zimbabwe are undemoratic countries but they are not socialist. Mugabe tried to chart a path different to the one pre-ordained by the the IMF and World Bank and got done for it. His seizure of commercial farms from whites was his "payback", if you like.

There is a solution and it will take a lot of research, hard work, intellectual honesty and good, enlightened leadership - and less dogmatism by the west.

The Wrap

AAA, you say, "... not all problems are directly traceable to economics." I must disagree. In the context of the present debate, all the problems are directly traceable to economics.

The problems are directly traceable to the fact that economic respouces are scarce, and the African masses have no democratic control over those resources. The resources are in the grip of a kleptocracy in thrall to western imperialism.

The various Gulf Slaughters, from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s to the 2003 Operation Iraqi Liberation (Oil), happened because America and the west have got their eye on Middle East oil in order to solve their energy needs and maintain imperial hegemony.


BBB: "... and also why China is rising to be an economic superpower without Africas natural resources as well."

China and the rest of South East Asia developed because the used their own resources and had control of their economies - and because of determined leadership. I am not going to debate the rights and wrongs of the "Cultural Revolution" which resulted in millions of deaths. It however saw China "take off". Would you suggest one for Africa?

Africa Has the basic resources needed for take off, but those resources are used for the benefit of others. Leadership again? Any credible leader that's ever emerged "out of Africa", has been either assassinated, removed by CIA proxies, or punished a la Mugabe.

The list of the former includes Nkrumah, Machel, Lumumba and Thomas Sankara. You seem to underestimate the capacity of western imperialism to impose their will when and how they want. Think of what happened in Iraq. This is realpolitik, my friend. Do you think the west, despite the rhetoric, is just going to say, "Okay Guys, we give you your freedom, Do as you like." If you believe that, you will believe anything.

"...I don't think that Guardinistas are going to like the answers if they dare go looking for them ..." I don't get this. Or do I! Is it that there is something congenital to the black race that dooms us to eternal underdogdom? We should be told.


CCC: "Africa seems to be adept at throwing up leaders who don't consider the treasury to be anything else than their personal bank account, and who are quite willing to make the country take out any loan so they can spend the proceeds. A rapacity that is staggering."

I totally agree. And all of these leaders have been produced by western-style democracy. The system, as presently rigged, will always produce that kind of leader. A grassroots revolution by the people themselves, bloody or otherwise, may be the only way to produce leaders that will do what needs to be done.

Kleptocracy is a factor, but just think about this. The amounts pilfered are small relative to the total amounts wasted on defective policies that set up our economies for the big western shakedown. And don't forget that these leaders and their cronies get kickbacks from these same western donors for signing on the dotted line.

Despite the constant hype about "aid", the outflow of resources from Africa is far greater than what goes in. Africa is really giving "aid" to the west. I will provide figures on my blog in the next couple of days.


DDD, you are on the money!Nothing but a real revolution will do in Africa. Aid is just a distraction, a sticking plaster. I really feel sorry for Mugabe and for our people. He had a real opportunity to start something good, to follow in Nkrumah's footsteps and work towards the PanAfrican ideal of a Union of African States.

It is not in the interests of western imperialism for Africa to get out of this rut. Only Africans themselves can pull ourselves out of it. Otherwise we will be waiting till kingdom come. 

Zimbabwe and South Africa

EEE, I was not very clear in my last post when I said: "I really feel sorry for Mugabe and for our people."

It was an expression of pity for the man; he has squandered one of the most favourable opportunities in recent decades for Africa to progress towards genuine unity and development.

I am no fan of Mugabe. I was naturally very optimistic during the early years of his rule, but he has dashed all our hopes. Any sympathy I ever had for him died a natural death a long time ago. See this piece I prepared earlier.

After you read that article you will see that it is false to claim, as you do, that, "Sadly, Thabo Mbeki has he same attitude to Mugabe as you do..." I am not an apologist for Mugabe - or for any other leader, for that matter.

I am not saying you are trying to force words into my mouth, but the fact that you failed, or refused, to put my "sorrow" for Mugabe into the context of my previous posts about contemporary leadership on the continent might just lead one to be a tad suspicious.

There are a lot of Africans - and non-Africans - who will defend the indefensible as far as Mugabe, or any other leader, is concerned. I am not one of them. Let's be clear on that.

You say: "Zimbabwe, born of armed struggle, inherited a regime corrupted by the blood and violence of that struggle, and the country now lies in ruins. South Africa, which won majority rule by means of a multitude of pressures, but almost no violent action at all, is comparatively stable and economically stronger than before."

mugabe.jpgThis argument is fallacious. You try to make some sort of generalisation from the different manners in which those countries achieved mahority rule. The first generalisation one can infer from your words is that: Zimbabwe became free of illegal white minority rule through bloody armed struggle, so they are doomed. The second: South Africa achieved majority rule through almost no violence at all; therefore, it is stable and economically stronger.

Where is the causal relationship here - between mode of independence and socio-economic stability? I can't see it. The USA won a bloody revolution to get rid of British imperialism - they are today, at least for a few more decades, the Masters of the Universe. The unification of Italy was also bloody. Remember the French Revolution?

Your move from the particular to the general is not scientific. It is therefore invalid.

What did it for Zimbabwe was the refusal of western economic orthodoxy to allow Zimbabwe to pursue a non-capitalist path to development. The economy was brought to its knees as a consequence. Mugabe, in a bid to maintain power and wreak "vengence" on the west, decided to kill two birds with one stone - by enforced land redistribution. And, by the way, the white farmers were in the main running commercial farms producing tobacco, not food crops.

I know you are not saying it, but your statement comparing Zimbabwe and South Africa could be likened to veiled threats to South Africa by the "international community" that a similar fate would follow were it to attempt the same. Mbeki is a wiser, more humane man.

The following is not said in defence of Mugabe's antics, but a statement of historical fact - and we don't want to get our facts wrong, do we? Mugabe's "racist rhetoric" was not antecedent to economic decline, but came afterwards. So there is no causal relationship there, either.

As I have already been bitten once, let me say categorically that I am not advocating a race war by blacks against whites. There, that's out of the way!

You say: 'This is why I think your talk of a "grassroots revolution, bloody or otherwise" smacks so strongly of late-night student talk, and is finally absurd.'

You can think what you like. That is your right. Absurd or not, an oppressed and impoverished people will seek their redemption by any means necessary. The Americans took it from the British, Filipinos braved Marcos' bullets, the "colour revolutionaries" in the former Soviet bloc stood up to their various despots. I think I can live with the disapproval of a few comfortably-off westerners who can only imagine what real suffering is like."