Africa Should Rid Itself of the Scent of the West and Engage in Trade, but Fair Trade
…. Most experts agree that China’s and India’s respective economies took off the moment these two countries decided to liberalize trade, ease restrictions on enterprises, lift control over individuals, and open their markets, first to internal competition, and then, cautiously and gradually, to external competitions.5 China’s and India’s particular experiences give credence to the widely held conviction that what stimulates growth is competition, and competition’s strongest inhibitor is trade barrier. For more than forty years, as notes Collier, peripheral states enjoyed the protection of tariffs. Though these tariffs guarded the peripheral states from aggressive external competition coming from the core states, they have, on the other hand, accomplished very little in stimulating domestic markets. Consequently, what really kept the limited domestic firms alive was the burden of inflation borne by the ordinary people. In independent Africa, it is well known that the domestic enterprises that were kept alive by trade barriers belonged, incidentally, to nationals of the former colonizing countries. It is also a fact that these trade barriers were in their great majority legacies of the colonial system, meant to protect the economies of the metropolis. Consequently, as soon as these barriers began to constitute a hindrance for the metropolis, international demands that they be removed became increasingly imperative.
Trade barriers and regulations in Africa did not really benefit Africa, because they were not meant to. They were indirect instruments of protectionism for the Western-owned companies that did business in Africa. As experts predict that Africa needs to mature toward a 7-percent annual growth in order to reverse its poverty trend in the next fifteen years, it becomes imperative that Africa should courageously face external competition rather than take cover behind trade barriers that in most cases have been supportive of corruption; and some of the defunct regional integrations that, in attempts to copy the successful model of the European Union, have proliferated in African states must give way to really daring, benefit-yielding global trade; for indeed, “[trade] is generated by differences and the big opportunity for low-income countries is to trade with rich countries…. Within a group of poor countries there simply are not sufficient differences to generate much trade … regional integration between poor countries generates divergence instead of convergence.” If trade is the operative word for development theorists, fair trade, that is, trade as non-coerced exchange of goods between two or more commercial partners, should be the predominant model for development players. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, and a bamboozled Africa has come to develop great suspicion against the core states that have shone by their legendary duplicity, a duplicity which, in a more diplomatic language, Collier has characterized as “policy incoherence” before qualifying it more negatively, out of countenance.
The core states’ commerce with Africa was never meant to promote development in Africa. The core states have never engaged in fair trade with Africa. What they call trade are “unilateral transfers of wealth,” outright plunders or plunders that are “thinly veiled as trade.” This is why Africa should be very careful not to complacently delve into unprotected trade with the core states. Before Africa undertakes a full-fledged liberalization, Africa must follow the example of China and India and start at the level of endogenous competition. Domestic, in-house liberalization should precede full-blown liberalization with its assault of foreign buyouts. Africa needs to break away with its abusive rapports with the West and follow India’s and China’s experiences with liberalism.
Africa’s wretchedness comes, albeit not entirely, at least in large part, from Africans having put too much faith in their rapports with the Western countries. The development deficit of Africa, as we have by now sufficiently demonstrated, finds its root source more in the continent’s debilitating rapport with the West than in endogenous causes. The Western powers, through a swarm of institutional and organizational artifices, have designed their commerce with Africa in such a way as to continuously make the African continent the injured party of the laughable agreements they signed with the corrupt and/or semiliterate African leaders. Given the existing trend, Africa is en route for political, social and economic annihilation. Nonetheless, there is no reason that despair should set in yet. Africa’s future is still salvageable. In fact, despite the brutality, the plunder, and the betrayal of which Africa has been victim for centuries, Africa’s future remains bright. Africa is still among the custodians of the world’s largest geological resources and human capital. Africa can get out of its quagmire provided it gives itself the proper leaders to launch the correct connections and reorient its development policy. Africa’s brighter future will be realized only at the cost of dramatic change. For Africa to get out of its drought, it will have to rid itself of the scents of the West, of the slave mentality that still haunts a great part of its elites, institute reciprocal rapports with the Orient, and particularly take China and India as development paradigms
The Western European states have proven over several centuries that they are not the friends of Africa. Each time an opportunity was offered Western nations to show their good faith through reciprocal commerce with Africa, they have generally turned out to be slave dealers, robbers, exploiters, crooks, and usurers. It is high time Africa stopped looking at the Western European states as their exclusive friends. It is high time Africa started seeing the Western European states for what they have proven to be over five centuries of encounter: bleeders of Africa and profiteers of Africa’s torments. Compared with Europe, the
United States of America is a relative newcomer in doing business with Africa, and it has a tremendous opportunity to show the people of the African continent that it really seeks a relationship of reciprocity and mutual respect with them. Unfortunately, in the short time that America has commercially engaged Africa, it has shown the world that it could be, if not more, at least as conniving and destructive as Western Europe. What the world needs to know is that Africans may be poor—and by whose fault, we might ask?—but they are neither intellectually deficient nor lacking in honor; unlike most of their corrupt leaders and the abandonment-neurotic native informants that are looting the continent in collusion with predatory Western multinationals and governments, most Africans are a proud people that would not humiliate themselves; and they should not.
Africans should resolve to trade with those countries that would understand the history of their humiliation and struggles. India and China are two of these countries, and their economic takeoff in the face of so many uncertainties and so much contention makes them fitting examples of fortitude and success for Africa. Furthermore, it is less by the size of their growth than by the rate of that growth that China and India fascinate. Experts speculate that if the current trend of growth rate and policies in China and India are maintained, India’s economy will surpass Japan’s in 2032 and China will surpass the United States by 2041—though in these two countries, per capita increase will remain well below that of the United States. Without pouring excessive faith in these kinds of extrapolations, it is evident, nevertheless, that, against all odds, China and India have made great strides toward economic development. It is also evident that for these emergent countries the road to travel looks much brighter than the road already traveled. Africa ought to follow China’s and India’s examples.
Despite the fact that trade liberalization and openness to competition are widely believed by experts to constitute one of the principal factors of growth, nonetheless, trade liberalization should not be approached with the blindness and naiveté that Africa has too often displayed in this matter. There is an inexperienced belief that, in sub–Saharan Africa, where small informal industries requiring a low level of skills occupy most of the private local entrepreneurs, whereas sophisticated skills-demanding industries remain the provinces of foreign investors, foreign investments are the magic wand for creating “the missing middle” in industrialization. This messianic outlook on foreign investments propagated by the World Bank and adopted by many sub–Saharan African governments tends to spread the artificial wisdom that joint foreign-local industrial ventures would be the ideal nurseries whence a local entrepreneurial bourgeoisie could spring. As demonstrated by Navaretti’s study of Côte d’Ivoire, it is misleading to think that joint foreign-local industrial ventures would necessarily be propitious to the development of a dynamic local entrepreneurship by way of gradual transfer of skills and decision-making.
In fact, the predominant importance of foreign interests in joint ventures will tend to “limit learning by doing and the development of indigenous skills.” The profit-driven technologies of foreign industries allow little time and patience to train local workers for high-level positions, and expatriates will have little motivation and few incentives to delegate decision-making to locals. Furthermore, because foreign firms are more likely to be managed according to strategies defined abroad or in the home country, expatriate managers will more likely trust their compatriots than they would local workers, which would limit the transfer of decision-making and technologies to local workers. Africa need a level-headed liberalization policy that gives primordial role to government in the liberalizing enterprise. China and India, we believe, have given Africa enlightening paths to follow in this regard.
Trade liberalization should be undertaken with much vigilance and prudence. In the case of China’s and India’s respective experiences, it could be argued that regulations have not always carried only negative effects on growth. On the contrary, a certain level of protectionism and regulations has been propitious to shielding sensitive sectors of the economy from predatory foreign investors, to judiciously identifying regions of the country and sectors of the national economy that need more stimulation than others, and to promoting a strong middle class ready to compete with external investors before are dismantled the levees against the voracious multinational corporations that cannot wait to submerge Third World countries.
In China, for instance, rural industrialization, which constitutes one-half of the country’s industrial output, and which is the secret to China’s industrial miracle, is entirely owned by the country’s farmers. Farmers’ ownership of rural industrialization would not have been possible under unbridled liberalization and without some level of government intervention that had discouraged savage individual profit driven capitalism, encouraged collective ownership, outfitted the Township and Village Enterprises (TVE) with logistic means, set growth targets for rural industries, and utilized rural industries as means for correcting regional economic disparities and reducing city and countryside discrepancy. China was able to achieve success in these various areas by a mandate of the central authority to government departments to formulate policies barring discrimination against TVEs and purging favoritism toward state-owned enterprises in matters of contracts and procurement.
Before 1992, foreign direct investments (FDIs) in China were limited and only concentrated on textile products and light industries. Commerce, finance, and insurance, for instance, were forbidden to FDIs. When the Communist Party of China Central Committee finally requested the opening up of the country’s regions to foreign investments, China had already made a full assessment of its needs, had a relatively high level of savings, and was ready and strong enough to diversify its partnership rather than cave in to the demands of intransigent core countries. Though FDIs were allowed in the country, China, nonetheless, established preferential zones for FDIs in particular areas identified as needing more development, such as Beijing, Shangai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Dalian, Qingdao, and five special economic zones. In these areas, preferential provisions were made available for foreign-funded enterprises. It thus appears that as regards openness, China is not different from any other industrialized country. No industrialized country has ever opened its borders to uncontrolled trade, and no industrialized country has ever opened its environment to either internal or external businesses without restrictions or regulations. Likewise, China has sought to protect its sensitive state-owned enterprises and orient FDIs to targeted areas. Obviously, China’s alleged “highly regulated” economic and political environment has not prevented the proliferation of European and American businesses in the country. The rhetoric about China’s highly regulated economic environment could sometimes strike as too puffed up. It looks rather like bullying gestures by the core states, which are intended to intimidate China into doing what the core states would be unwilling to do at home. So far, China has not budged in response to the coercion to open its economic environment to uncontrolled capitalism, and there is little chance that it do so in the future.
Nigeria, for instance, has provided us with telling illustrations of what happens when, too hurry to accumulate foreign exchange, states fail to implement internal regulations prior to the arrival of greedy multinational corporations that are driven by the allure of maximum returns. Remarking on Nigeria, Terry Lynne Karl makes a disheartening revelation: peripheral countries that are rich in oil and minerals do worse in their development than those that do not have oil or minerals. In mineral rich countries, the core states’ multinationals descend like vultures concerned with no other issue but maximum wealth accumulation. There, multinationals connive with country officials to siphon the country’s wealth, leaving the masses in extreme poverty. A country like Nigeria, which has been sitting on rich oil fields since the early 1960s, still has 70 percent of its population living below the poverty line, while a minority of overfed government officials roams impudently in the company of multinational CEOs and core states’ government officials. In the early 1990s, Shell’s destructive operations in Nigeria were being challenged by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), a non-violent movement organized by late Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. Shell’s extraction of oil in the Niger Delta area had caused environmental degradation in the region. The Ogoni people’s livelihood and living condition were disrupted by Shell’s unregulated oil exploitation. Fishing areas, farmlands, and drinking water were contaminated. Extreme poverty lurked: malnutrition and infant mortality rates skyrocketed. So, Saro-Wiwa organized his people to force Shell to be more environmentally conscious. Apparently, the MOSOP was winning against the oil giant, for, in May 1994, a memorandum sent from the internal security forces in the Ogoni region to the Nigerian military sounded a panicky alarm. “SHELL OPERATIONS STILL IMPOSSIBLE UNLESS RUTHLESS MILITARY OPERATIONS ARE UNDERTAKEN FOR SMOOTH ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES TO COMMENCE.” It was paradoxical that “ruthless military operations” should be the precondition for “smooth economic activities.” Months after the memo was received, the Nigerian military ruthlessly attacked several Ogoni villages, killed villagers, and destroyed homes. Saro-Wiwa and his close collaborators were arrested, tried in a kangaroo court and executed on November 10, 1995. This was a punitive expedition ordered by Shell in connivance with the Nigerian dictatorship, which was a partner in the oil extraction business.
Had a minimum of strict internal regulations existed to which local businesses had to learn to conform before the arrival of Shell in Nigeria, Shell would not have considered the need to support a ruthless dictatorship and obliquely engage in human rights abuses in order to operate successfully. Dictatorships endure in Africa because they are often supported by powerful multinational corporations from the core states which, in the absence of regulatory measures in peripheral countries, prefer cheap bribes to expensive humane operations. Following China’s example, Africa ought to implement a certain level of governmental intervention, which would protect sensitive sectors of the economy, such as the environment, healthcare, education, power, water, and communication, until such time when a trained body of local investors is able to vie for stakes against external competitors. These local investors should be in great part constituted by a body of middle class and not, as is too often the case in Africa, by a tiny body of ministers, CEOs and government workers who have built their fortune on embezzled public funds and corruption. The example of Côte d’Ivoire, where the middle class is mainly constituted by corrupt government officials and shady party leaders, is an indication that when the middle class’s interests do not lie in transparent regulations, even attempts to bring about institutional changes beneficial to the country could unleash direct violent interventions by the core states and their multinational corporations supported by their militaries, the latter always ready to respond to the call of business operatives. In fact, as has been noted by Rowe, the imperial pattern indicates that military interventions do not precede trade negotiations. It is the other way around. It is usually when the idea of free trade as propounded by the metropolis in its relation with the colony fails that the military intervenes to force its application or simply removes and replaces unforthcoming nationalist leaders with lethargic marionette leaders. In 2002, the socialist government of Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire experienced this pattern of “free trade imperialism” when it attempted to divorce itself from the corrupt Western perception of development that is grounded in the “assumption that the only way to move to a market economy is to sell the state sector … the quicker the better,” and which, under Prime Minister Ouattara’s auspices, had permitted the reckless sale of strategic state-owned enterprises to French predatory speculators. Before opening its economy to a downpour of savage capitalists, Africa should first privilege an endogenous liberalization that gives governments a reasonable power of regulation.
Provided Africans Defragment their Political Systems
One of the factors which, according to experts, have kept India lagging behind China in the race for development is India’s excessive number of political parties. Those observers that are struck by this demographic giant’s proportionally justifiable twenty-party coalition should consider the hundreds of parties that have mushroomed in tiny African states such as Cameroon, Senegal, or Côte d’Ivoire, to cite only these few. Democratization in Africa has too often been understood as the creation of a political party at every street corner, in every quarter, in every wealthy person’s home or around the ego of every popular singer or soccer player. The anarchical proliferation of political parties in Africa is motivated by an opportunistic drive. War-ridden African nations have been known to settle conflicts by the formation of “national unity” governments around power-thirsty incumbent leaders rather than organize free and fair elections. Since national unity governments are usually staffed with party leaders, irrespective of the size of their constituencies, opportunistic politicians and businessmen have seen the creation of parties as a way to have a minister position and thus an opportunity to share in the loot of national resources.
As notes Vicky Randall, “[t]the struggle for legislative seats is to gain majority status but also, especially in the case of smaller parties, the attention of the executive.” Moreover, these party leaders, who have no genuine concern for where their country is headed, have constituted the greatest filibusters of the political process, taking the already imperfect system hostage until their petty personal demands are satisfied. The more political parties there are the less chance there is for consensus to be reached on policy adoption and implementation. The excessive number of political parties in Africa is cause for corruption and development fragmentation. Is it not curious that the plethora of political parties in Africa is exogenously funded by individuals whose own political system allows for limited numbers of parties? This is because sub–Saharan African political parties are oblique megaphones for external interests. Because opposition parties in Africa are usually urban parties with bad representation in the rural areas where most of African countries’ populations reside, these parties have very few due-paying members and must, consequently, rely on external donors for their funding. These external donors, for the most part interest groups, use the indebted political parties to disrupt the democratic process in Africa, an observation that has led some proponents of single-party systems to contend that the old single-party rules that dominated Africa’s political landscape in the aftermath of decolonization were more efficient, because they were less prone to encourage politicization of the administration, expensive campaigns, and corruption. As has argued Blundo, this assumption is belied by history.
Nevertheless, it is also undeniable that African political parties have been more busy dealing in personalism, regionalism, ethnicism, patronage, clientelism, and violence than promoting national growth. Within the framework of national unity governments, political party leaders have usually battled to retain the administration of ministries with significant budgets, and they have successfully managed to cripple effective power and resource redistributions, siphoning public resources for their party members and for the enrichment of their close collaborators. For instance, before Ouattara’s RDR maneuvered to get Ahmed Bakayoko appointed as minister of Post and Telecommunication in a government of national unity, Côte d’Ivoire could boast of having the best postal service in West Africa, and one of the best on the continent. Today, with Bakayoko’s maladministration, his petty arguments with postal workers and his redirection of public funds to his party’s coffers, getting a piece of mail successfully delivered across the country amounts to a miracle.
Without subscribing to the view that single-party rules are more efficient or more democratic than multi-party systems, when it comes to political parties in Africa, less is more. Given their plethoric number, the compound abuses by the political parties undermine democracy consolidation and continuity in Africa. The number of political parties in sub–Saharan Africa ought to be trimmed down to its bare minimum. What number is an adequate number and by what process should political parties be limited? It would not be undemocratic at all, we believe, for states to set up a number of constituents proportionate to the voting population to be reached by each political organization before that organization could be given voice as a party. After all, this process is already in use, and without much indignation, in several countries that claim to be at the forefront of democracy in the course of determining which organizations are to be funded or allowed right of appearance at political debates. This is a question that any electoral commission can be given authority to settle. It goes to the core of Africa’s development. It goes to the core of Africa’s real growth, which has for too long been hampered by the myriad of corrupt political parties and NGOs. Like political parties, NGOs in Africa have been judicially proven to be financed by outside interests and to serve for the destabilization of African nascent democracies. In Congo-Brazzaville, for instance, one of these so-called humanitarian associations funded from without has held a significant role in the impediment of democracy.
Political parties and NGOs have to be trimmed down to defragment the system; they have too often enriched the few to the detriment of the many. A program that seeks to uplift the many and not just the few is by definition a legal program. Africa’s many are first and foremost in the rural sector; they constitute 80 percent of sub–Saharan Africa’s population. Africa’s true middle class ought to be gradually built from the rural sector through a program of rural development.
Provided Africans Restore the Rural Sector to Build Up Capitals
Though India and China could be regarded as models of development for Africa to emulate, as economic partners, they could also constitute challenges to Africa. The demographic size of China and India and their early start in the development paths that they have chosen could make it hard for African states to compete against them. Would not the field be already too crowded by the time Africa reaches its industrial cruising speed? Would not Africa reach its industrial peak even before it begins its industrial revolution? As has argued Richard Heeks, “countries like India, Singapore, and the Philippines arrived on the export scene many years ago. They have already developed the requisite skills, contacts, policies, and infrastructure that are so lacking in Africa. As a result, these established players will continually consolidate their position whilst squeezing out potential African newcomers.” In other words, “turn off your stove, for your neighbors are cooking today!” Were Chinese industrial revolutionaries listening to Heeks, they would not even have bothered to start their industrial takeoff. Were Indians listening to him, the thought of entering the software competition would not even have visited them. If Africans were taking Heeks seriously, they would just confine themselves to supplying the West with raw materials.
Yet again, those of us who urge Africa to emulate China and India do more than recommend to Africa that it reproduce exactly what these two countries produce today. For Africa to emulate China and India implies, instead, that Africa should draw upon first the ethos and determination, and then the institutional arrangements and provisions that have helped propel these two countries into the industrial age. Indians have not always been self-assured software creators and China has not always been the factory of the world. At one time, Chinese and Indians, too, were neurotic subjects seeking to run as far away from themselves as possible. At one time, they, too, had suffered from the dis-ease of lactification, and it is undeniable that even today many Chinese and Indians still wish to whiten the race both psychologically and physically. The chip of self-hatred that colonialism implants in the brain of the colonized does not wear out that easily. The merit of the great majority of Chinese and Indians is to have overcome the debilitation of colonialism and to have understood that the West, which at one time had treated them as sub-humans and taught them to hate themselves, is not invulnerable. And so they fought hard for their independences under charismatic leaders (Mao for the Chinese and Nehru for the Indians). Then, as they freed themselves from the clad of oppression, they understood that the West could also be beaten at its own game; so they started working at it gradually, by looking back first. Their very powerful diasporas—55 million overseas nationals for India and 20 million overseas nationals for China—looked back by bringing capital, technology, and consumers to their respective countries. China and India are gradually beating the West at its own game, with no rancor, but with an ethos of yearning for knowledge and improvement, respect for diversity, and reverence for truth.
That growth is not the exclusive province of one people, of one race, is the new truth. The new
battle is the battle of development and not of armament. China redirected its industry from the heavy industry of weaponry production to light and medium industry and confined its once-excessive army to just one million men, which for its demographic size sends a message to the world that it has irreversibly turned its back on confrontation. India finds the strength for this new battle of development in an age-old Hindu ethos.
Africans, too, possess this yearning for knowledge and improvement. Every day, thousands of young Africans brave the desert sun and the treacherous seas to seek education and better living conditions in the West. Many make it there, and many also perish trying to make it there. They have against them the worst hand that could be dealt to a human being: centuries of epidermal prejudice. This prejudice shuts borders to the Africans more violently than borders could be shut to any other people. Yet, like the proverbial camel through the eye of the needle, they make it to the land of the other; and once there, they are too exhausted to look back, too disheartened to go back to this wretched land that they have left, to the wretched land that has become the paradise of Western arm dealers and mineral poachers. Yet, it is only by looking back that they would transform Africa. It is by looking back that young Indians and Chinese have started to pull their respective countries from their wretchedness.
So by suggesting that Africans look at India and China, what we are also suggesting is that they look at the way the ethos of yearning for improvement and resilience that they share with the Chinese and the Indians has been used by these two peoples in their quest for growth. The field of industrial creativity is infinite, and the young educated Africans ought to be able to look back and develop for the world, but on behalf of their continent, the industries of tomorrow. They do have the intellectual resources for that; and much fortunately, too, they do have the natural resources for building up the level of savings that is needed to construct the infrastructure that will help launch Africa’s industrial transformation. One factor that helped China and India develop fast was their ability to mobilize capital and establish initial levels of savings. For China, high levels of savings came through great agricultural output. The foundation of China’s industrial revolution actually was realized through the improvement of agriculture and the restoration of the rural economy, which started long before the 1990s. From 1949 to 1952,
China set about restoring the rural economy by improving agricultural output. This huge campaign of restoration led to the improvement of farmers’ living condition. Over these three years, farmers’ income grew by an average rate of 30 percent. Farmers’ average daily consumption per capita increased. Rural electricity consumption swelled dramatically. Millions of farmers got out of illiteracy thanks to a mass anti-illiteracy campaign. As farmers’ condition got better, they increasingly became consumers of domestic goods, and they contributed to the stabilization of the national economy and created the foundation for the national economic restoration. China’s per capita income and growth rate continue to increase and to impress observers. Improvement of the rural sector has allowed China to mobilize a huge quantum of resources from its domestic economy. This experience should hail Africa.
Provided Africans Consolidate the Legacy of Granaries
Most African governments are quick to state the significance of agriculture in their countries’ economies. Yet, as this crucial constituent of the economy remains vulnerable to the devastation of unpredictable natural elements such as drought, parasite invasion, and forest fires, little is done by African states to alter the predictable variables of agriculture. African states must restore their investments in agriculture and improve agricultural development in such a way as to better the condition of the rural populations, which in good times and bad times have constituted the backbone of Africa’s economy. This is important in two ways. Firstly, if in addition to importing manufactured goods Africa were to import agricultural goods, and particularly provisions of sustenance, on a large scale, the result for Africa’s economy and social fabric would be catastrophic. Africa needs to be self-sufficient in the vital sector of nutrition. Secondly, as has been the case elsewhere, agriculture could help garner much needed capital and shore up the level of savings that is essential for industrial takeoff. For African agriculture to play this role, however, it will need to be reorganized. Too many farmers in Africa continue to work on tiny strips of land with very limited or archaic implements. The state ought to encourage farmers’ organization into larger collectivized entities and, against the one-sided and hypocritical recommendations of the WTO, the World Bank, and the core states that agricultural subsidies be eliminated, the state ought to openly support these collectivized entities by outfitting them with tools, grains, shoots, fertilizers, and irrigation systems, in order to help them increase their outputs.
State intervention is of crucial importance, especially in areas where private operators have failed to fill the void after the World Bank/IMF forced African states to stop subsidies. African states have a moral responsibility to resume or start support of social services in rural areas. This includes supporting healthcare, education, electrification, water supplies, roads and communication services, environmental education services, and also recreation services, all things that would smooth the discrepancy between village and city, improve life in rural areas, and contribute to greater agricultural output. Furthermore, the state ought to facilitate credit lines and loans to farmers, make farmers’ alphabetical as well as financial literacy a priority and encourage savings and responsible consumption by farmers. One of the greatest and most rewarding challenges that states will face in making agriculture relevant is doing one thing that only states can do best, i.e., restoring gender fairness in agriculture, adopting and implementing what could be called “affirmative action in agricultural policy.” African women have been working in agriculture, and especially in food crops, since the dawn of ages, since before the aggressive orientation of agriculture toward market economy; and yet they have rarely been owners of the means of production. Men have.
This unfairness has even been exacerbated by the Bank’s forced Structural Adjustment Programs in Africa, a fact that Sean Redding notes so observantly. “The structural adjustment policies were supposedly gender neutral; they did not specifically target either women or men. But precisely because the policies were gender-neutral, they tended to favor men over women, because it was men who had the kind of international contacts, the kind of access that allowed them to get … aid.” Affirmative action in agricultural policy will therefore have to address the issue of land ownership by women and their access to alphabetical/financial literacy, aid, and credit, especially as even sustenance agriculture is so market-driven. Although total ownership by women of sustenance agriculture has been attained in some areas in Africa—we are thinking, for instance, of the “marché gouro,” the collectivized entity of the Gouro women from the Oumé region of Côte d’Ivoire that supplies both the local markets and some international markets with a variety of vegetables—where sustenance agriculture is run from top to bottom by women, such achievements are rare and precarious without state intervention.
In formulating policies to correct gender bias in agriculture, the state will be fulfilling, through the restoration of agriculture, one of its major responsibilities, that of smoothing social inequities. Furthermore, women make up the largest portion of the African rural population, and it would be contradictory that any program propounding to ameliorate the condition of the rural masses remain indifferent to systemic bias against women or contribute to deepening the injustice against women. In preparation for their industrial revolution, it is in the interest of African states to transform women into consumers and savers. The empirics of money management plainly show that when they have control of their money, women are better consumers, longer-lasting (bank) clients, and better savers than men. States will find in women great allies in their endeavor to garner capital for their industrial takeoff.
Although they do not always have easy access to land ownership, African women, especially in rural areas, like many Indian women, have huge savings wrapped up in property, such as expensive cloths (Kente, Adingra, bazin, and wax pagnes) and minerals (especially gold, silver, and diamonds, to a lesser degree). Women wear them for adornment, offer them at baptismal ceremonies and at marriages, do up their dead with them, and even sometimes bury their love ones with them. African banks have to start tapping into these assets for savings by offering women cash for savings accounts. This will require banks to get involved in financial literacy programs in the rural areas.
Africans Should Promote Women’s Entrepreneurship
It is in the African states’ interests to attend to the well-being of African women in the rural sector if they really intend to include women as full participants in the development effort. Traditionally, poverty reduction programs have seldom concerned themselves with the particular well-being of women, as governments assume instead that within the same household the notion of well-being is understood indiscriminately by men, women and children. In fact, studies carried out in five rural districts of Uganda among 180 people, half of whom were women, showed that on the meaning of well-being, women’s priorities differ markedly from men’s. When asked to evaluate their own well-being and that of their neighbors within a particular village in relation to the impact of an agricultural support program, the women informants’ answers revealed that women’s perception of well-being. Women’s understanding of well-being also includes social, health, emotional and physical considerations including their decision making ability, source of income, access to land, animal ownership, husband’s contribution toward meeting household expenditures, relationship with polygamy, social assets and education, which will require of governments specific interventions rather than one-size-fits-all programs.
From the perspective of attending to women’s well-being, African governments should encourage African women’s entrepreneurship. Women are unanimous that their well-being is partly tied to their ownership of the means of production and of asset generation as well as to their control over wealth. A way for women to own their money and decide how to spend it is to make them business owners. Contrary to men’s businesses, women’s businesses usually require less startup capital. Yet, as noted Elsje Dijkgraaff, the gender-stereotyped values of banking staff generally make it difficult for women to obtain the little capital necessary to start a business, and to achieve the economic autonomy that is “a major instrument in redressing the gender imbalance of power in relationships with relatives, family and partners.” Women’s entrepreneurship will necessarily be an excellent development partner for African governments as it is proven that though women’s businesses start smaller than men’s, they tend to grow faster, they are less prone to bankruptcy, and they provide healthier working environments, by their success in balancing work and family, their support of employees’ lives, their low-key environment, and their little emphasis on unbridled competition among employees. Furthermore, women’s businesses tend to hire more women, thus reducing the gender apartheid in the professional sphere. Governments must therefore help in the creation of women’s businesses by making available credit lines for prospective women entrepreneurs, sensitizing loaning institutions to their gender biases, recognizing successful businesswomen and encouraging them to mentor new women entrepreneurs, and along with chambers of commerce, promote women as serious business agents and educate them in the mastery of the new indispensable business tool, that is, E-commerce.
In a First Phase, Africa Should Transport to Collect Foreign Exchange
Sub-Saharan Africa holds many of the world’s natural resources. In fact, Africa’s wealth is one of the reasons why the continent has never known sustained periods of peace. Legality is of crucial importance here, especially as much of Africa’s reserves are now being exported illegally under the cover of the multiple conflicts whose origins are mostly exogenous. Today, much of the Congo’s and Côte d’Ivoire’s diamond, gold, and wood that is being taken out of the countries by mercenary-speculators escapes the control of these two countries’ legitimate governments. In the confusion of the civil unrest in Côte d’Ivoire, a country like Burkina Faso, for instance, which has never planted a single shoot of coffee or cocoa because it does not have propitious soil for that kind of agriculture, has mysteriously become a cocoa and coffee exporter. Attracted by the natural reserves of Africa, and relentlessly seeking new ways to loot these reserves, the core states, in collusion with some African leaders, have set up instability, supported dictators, and stirred up internal conflicts in Africa in order to plunder the continent in the ensuing mayhem and lack of real institutional organization. Within the framework of sovereign institutional planning, African states should, in a first stage, and for a relatively limited period, legally transport, that is export, agricultural and mineral commodities in order for the accumulation of foreign exchange to take place and for investment capital to be garnered. This temporary intensive export of raw materials presupposes that African states should not tie themselves to foreign speculators through long-lasting agreements. This also implies that African states should have well-defined investment schemes of foreign exchange so as to be ready to launch into the second phase when time comes.
Africa Should Transfom its Resources on Site to Equilibrate the International Terms of Exchange
The next phase in Africa’s economic revolution concerns the shift from merely transporting to transforming. The phase of transformation will start the state’s process of intense industrialization. In fact, despite the deterioration of the terms of exchange decried by most African governments, very little effort has been undertaken on their part to move their countries’ economies from exporting raw commodities to transforming them on-site. By and large, African countries continue to be Western countries’ suppliers of raw materials. Although a number of African countries have attempted to diversify their economies through industrialization, many of the new industries have been confined to food processing. When it comes to mining, for instance, African minerals (oil, diamond, gold, silver, bauxite, manganese, and more) continue to be extracted in Africa and transformed in Western countries. Furthermore, the little industrialization there was took place under the auspices of state-owned enterprises, which were dismantled in the 1980s under the Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programs.
Nevertheless, some countries like Côte d’Ivoire or Senegal were able to put in place some kind of vertical diversification whereby paper, plywood or furniture are being exported in lieu of wood, textiles instead of cotton, and leather instead of hide. Africa should seek to accelerate the diversification of its light industry beyond food processing. African governments should, unapologetically, despite the threats of the core states and the World Bank/IMF, support the creation of light industries in Africa unless they choose to surrender this essential sector to foreign speculators and thus surrender the continent to a new form of colonization. There are sectors of light industrialization that should have logically been dominated by Africa, had African governments been lucid enough to invest aggressively in them. Take, for instance, the pharmaceutical industry. The African continent has always had the richest vegetal varieties, and for centuries Africa’s plants and roots have been effectively used in traditional pharmacology. There is a traditional pharmacological expertise in Africa that unfortunately has not been tapped into; so much so that today, Africa is the greatest supplier of plants, roots and nuts to Western pharmaceutical laboratories that are more concerned with developing medications targeting European illnesses than finding solutions to the plethora of tropical diseases. It is for them a matter of “dollar and sense.” The little research that is undertaken on tropical medications by private European pharmaceutical companies yields a variety of drugs that are out of reach for the financially strapped African populations. In the meantime, unscrupulous European enterprises are seeking to have total ownership of African plants by taking patents on these plants. This great danger to Africa’s biological resources has generated a neologism as much as a fair amount of outrage, albeit very little from African scientists and lawyers.
Biodiversity … is Africa’s richest asset. The knowledge its people have developed over centuries on the properties of plants, seeds, algae and other biological resources is now coveted by scientists for medicinal, agricultural and other purposes. Biopiracy is the theft of biological matter, like plants, seeds and genes. In the absence of laws regulating access to these resources, pharmaceutical, agrochemical and seed multinationals exploit Africa’s biological wealth and obtain rights of intellectual ownership to the resources and knowledge of the communities. Multinationals make huge profits from African biodiversity but do not share these with the communities who discovered, kept and transmitted the knowledge, activists argue. This particular aspect of the deterioration of the terms of exchange is literally killing millions of African children, women and elderly. It is high time that African governments woke up from their stupor and protected the resources of the continent by mounting strong legal oppositions against this newfound European piracy. In its industrialization campaign, Africa should start a vast program of pharmaceutical research for the purpose of developing an array of cures specifically targeting tropical diseases. This should be part of a conscious promotion of human capital development by African states.
Africa Should Develop its Human Capital
Africa’s very young population is a potentially expanding consumption base that ought to be tapped into through a variety of social development programs. As things present themselves now, Africa has the highest unemployment rate and the highest infant and maternal mortality rates. Unless African governments undertake efforts to vigorously reverse this trend, the continent will not be able to tap into this potentially favorable demographic and will, therefore, miss its development train. The kind of forced and precipitous liberalization that was promoted in Africa under the auspices of the World Bank and the IMF is the wrong liberalization for Africa. It was not meant to help develop the continent. It was rather intended to further enrich the core states and their rapacious multinational corporations by weakening economic, but above all, social development in Africa. Asking African states to suspend their government expenditures on healthcare, education, water distribution, and infrastructure building is a recipe for waning social development; yet, there is a correlate between social development and economic growth for the very simple reason that neglected, unskilled, uneducated, and physically and emotionally unfit human capital will not help a state develop. On the contrary, it will be a burden to the state. “Sustained growth,” as observes Mahtaney “entails that [a country] needs to make faster and longer strides in the realm of improving … social development.” So, African governments will need to create employment, but most importantly a population fit to work. How can states create employment, ensure healthcare to the public and outfit workers with professional skills at a reasonable cost all at the same time? States can achieve this by marrying agriculture with industrialization.
Africa Should Marry Industrialization with Agriculture through Decentralization
Industrial expansion in Africa should not be undertaken at the expense of subsistence agriculture, and vice versa. Subsistence agriculture, as we have already mentioned, is vital for Africa’s daily survival; it should be mechanized to ensure a high level of productivity. However, mechanizing agriculture will indubitably create an excess of labor in the agricultural sector, which could go on to augment the poor, undernourished and unhealthy populations. The surplus labor resulting from agriculture mechanization could be accommodated by industrialization as the latter develops. This is why industrialization should be decentralized in such a way that within the same region agriculture and industry work hand in hand, industry relying for its development on the resources of the region, and the regional as much as the national consumer base and agriculture relying for their development on the consumer base that industry brings in. Industry and agriculture should work hand in hand in such a way that industry and agriculture feed on one another, become consumers of each other’s output. If successful, this reciprocal patronage between agriculture and industry in the rural area will help raise wages in both sectors and give rise to a vibrant service sector that will further absorb the surplus of agriculture and industry.
In due course, both agriculture and industry will ultimately have to privilege specialization. This also will be a successful program of decentralization that will solve the question of overpopulation of the few African cities that have traditionally hosted industries.
For this virtuous circle of development to actually materialize, it is imperative that African governments recognize and support the development of rural non-agricultural activities, which has not often been the case because of the traditional perception of rural economies as exclusively resting on agriculture. It is a fact that the neglected rural non-agricultural sector that comprises such occupations as transportation, manufacturing, construction, mining and various types of services is a vibrant sector in its own way. If seriously tapped into, this non-agricultural sector has the potential of leading to better distribution of employment and income and to overall geographical equality. The common pattern of industrial development in sub–Saharan Africa, which has mainly concentrated on large-scale industries in big cities, has traditionally benefited a reduced number of persons to the detriment of the larger population, and it has also increased the burden of overpopulation on the very few industrial cities that have drawn people in search of employment.
The failure by governments to recognize the non-farming industrial sector in rural regions has resulted in the backwardness of this segment of activities. As Bagachwa and Stewart show, rural non-agricultural industries continue to be excluded from formal credit, and their main sources of capital remain family support and personal savings. Only in very rare cases (1 percent) are these industries funded by formal credit. Family generally constitutes the source of labor for these industries. Skills are usually acquired from other craftsmen and the lack of functional literacy among the workers makes it difficult for them to keep financial records and to distinguish between business expenditures and household expenses. The sources of technologies for rural industries are often inadequate, archaic and inefficient. For instance, traditional blacksmiths are likely to use tools they have manufactured themselves, such as stone anvils, goatskin bellows, wooden and clay pipes, etc., traditional grain milling industries are likely to use wooden mortars and pestles, and rural bread making industries are likely to operate with mud-burnt brick and hand-operated equipment. Furthermore, these industries are extremely labor intensive, and the products that they yield, though compatible with the income level of the consuming rural populations—and also because of this very fact—remain inferior in quality to those produced in urban areas. They lack uniformity and have shorter longevity.
As has been reported, Sub-Saharan Africa’s rural non-agricultural industry “contrasts poorly on most counts with Asian rural industry” mainly because of policy biases against agriculture in Africa. “Policy biases against agriculture … hurt the rural non-farm sector, and policy changes favoring agriculture would assist it.” Agriculture and industry ought to grow and specialize under the ambit of governmental support and incentives. As agriculture and industry develop by transforming on site, and as their labor surplus goes into services, such as catering, leisure, hospitality, tourism, art, creative enterprises, healthcare, etc., more rural populations will be retained in rural areas, for there will be more incentives for these populations to seek success in their own environments than to migrate to the urban districts.
While agriculture and industry will be promoted under the ambit of government, services, on the other hand, will be born out of individual entrepreneurial initiatives. Services, too, will seek to specialize, and will occasion the emergence of private skill-formation centers, professional schools, and the like, thus liberating government from some of its expenditure obligations in the area of human capital formation. This is saying that liberalization will come progressively on its own; no matter what. However, for this liberalization to be advantageous to the people, it has to be preceded by a level of government intervention.
Africa Ought to Enfranchise itself from Greedy Cosigners
The World Bank, the IMF, the Club of Paris and the Club of London are not philanthropic organizations. There are in the business of making money, and especially of producing maximum dividends out of minimum, and preferable no, investment. These financial organizations are the loudspeakers of the core states. It is in the interest of the core states and their multinational corporations that the peripheral states, which in the international division of labor have been slated as raw material providers, remain undeveloped; and the core states do work hard for the role of the peripheral states to remain unchanged. It is a mistake for African leaders to believe that when France or Great Britain, for instance, sponsors African countries for an IDA loan, these countries do it for the simple reason of world courtesy. These sponsorships are nooses around the neck of the African states that the core states tighten or loosen given the direction of the political wind, that is, given their own interests.
The core states are usurers. Their friendship is always interested and conditional, and their loans and aid packages are poisoned gifts that African countries ought to collectively reject.
It is understandable that foreign investors should seek to draw maximum profits from their investments in Africa. On the other hand, it should also be expected that African states would demand the maximum earnings for the exploitation of their resources by foreign multinationals. These two positions are not irreconcilable, and they should constitute the foundations upon which foreign investors and African governments conduct their negotiations. However, when multinational corporations from Western countries operate in Africa, they tend to bully African states to submission through economic blackmailing and threats of military invasions; for indeed,
whenever a powerful state intervenes to invade a weak state, one can be sure that some private investors from the powerful state, unhappy about their returns in the weak state, have directly or indirectly triggered the military intervention. Western multinational corporations have often blindfolded, gagged, and tortured African leaders in the dungeons of Western jouissance. Though, for some inexplicable reasons, most African leaders seem to have enjoyed their servitude, their unexpected proclivities have been depressing for the African masses. For the welfare of the people they are accountable to, African governments ought to get out of their losing rapport with the West.
This can only happen if African nations first place themselves in propitious conditions for rejecting Western countries’ poisoned gifts of aid and loans. African states have to develop their own investment funds and enfranchise themselves from the abusive and exploitative “friendship” that they have maintained with the core states since their very first encounters with the latter. African states should make it their mid-term objective to leave the Bretton Woods institutions, these rapacious organizations that prosper by cultivating misery in Africa. To enfranchise themselves from the usurers that the World Bank and the IMF are, African states, along with other developing countries, should agree to apportion a small part of their annual commodity export revenues to a collective development account from which member states could be loaned money for their development projects. Such an account could also help member states establish strong credit for getting loans, no longer from the core states, which have given enough proof of their insincerity, but this time from such transitional states as China. This idea is not novel. President Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire is an indefatigable herald for the creation of what he calls Fonds de Garantie et de Souveraineté, which is essentially the same concept.
The reader will certainly notice that in the solutions that we have just proposed to the development problems of Africa, we have avoided mentioning the dwelt-on question of Africa’s overpopulation, except to recognize that African cities are being overburdened by an exodus from the rural centers. Let it be known that we do not believe that Africa is overpopulated, and therefore we do not believe in the solutions often propounded by Western experts, which demand that African countries reduce their population size. Overpopulation is not what has kept Africa lagging behind. Lack of genuine exchange of technology and of industrialization is. From this perspective, we concur with Chinweizu who writes that [W]hen on the excuse of saving the environment, it is suggested that we perhaps ought not to industrialize, when on the excuse of reducing pressure of population on resources we are urged to control our populations, we ought to be thoroughly skeptical and have not just second, but even tenth thoughts on the advice we are given … the world may be overpopulated as a whole; but is Africa overpopulated with respect to what its resources, if used entirely in Africa, could support at some decent but not wasteful level of consumption? Africa’s poverty ought to end, and it can if the global discrepancy is readjusted in such a way that, instead of giving the West a monopoly on the “ingredients of survival,” those who have actually been at the source of the supremacy of the West are given control over the resources that they produce to that effect. The West should not be afraid of Africa’s success. It is not a matter of taking away from the West what it has. It is just a matter of allowing Africa to use whatever resources nature has granted it to genuinely pull itself out of poverty. A strong Africa is necessarily in the interest of the West, too. Nevertheless, whether the West approves of it or not, a strong Africa is coming of age in the next thirty years.