Economics of Pan-Afrikanism in Contemporary Africa
By Bernadus C. Swartbooi,
Henny H. Seibeb,
T. Elijah Ngurare
Friday, 22nd of August 2008
In our previous article on Pan-Afrikanism (published in the New Era, 30 May 2008) we explored the role and significance of Pan-Afrikanism in modern Namibia. In this article, we are primarily concerned with the economics of Pan-Afrikanism in the contemporary Africa.
Our focus in this intervention is a reflection of the economic trajectory of the continent and what stands to be done in eradicating afflictions of grinding poverty of Africans. In this context, we deliberately adopt an all-inclusive definition of ‘Africans’ as defined by Comrade Thabo Mbeki in his famous speech “I am an African”. Our view is that this definition includes black, white, Arab, Indian and speakers of every other language as collective agents of the economic emancipation of Africa.
The true quest for African development, therefore, is to be found in Pan-Afrikanism which advocates the economic integration of African countries and peoples. This requires the establishment of a broad continental common market and the removal of customs and other restrictive barriers to trade among African states.
Ironically, most of “decolonized” independent Africa continues to be economically dependent on the West and other rich nations of G8. The central question to be posed is: “Why is this precisely the case today?” What is the political and philosophical significance that economic and financial independence for Africa was not part and parcel of the decolonization- cum-independence process?
In search of development, African states have adopted all language requirements such as good governance, human rights and so on, to be able to access aid from the West. While many of the values of human rights, good governance and rule of law are fundamental and appropriate democratic norms in Africa and elsewhere, the parroting of these terms without critical analysis and contextual application of same is quite concerning.
Many African leaders believe that these terms and their uncritical application have a “modernizing effect on our society”. However, if one looks at it from the perspective of modern geopolitical realities in areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the US-controlled Guantanamo detention centre in Cuba, human rights and rule of law are brutally abused by America. As Basil Davidson argued in his book “The Blackman’s Burden”, the Post-colonial African governments struggle to shake off colonial institutions that were meant to serve Western political and commercial interests. Instead, many African governments have re-shaped and continue to use Western institutions and norms, which often inhibit locals from benefiting from their resources.
Out of this experience comes the strength of the argument that the African state must be a responsive and activist state, rooted in the historical struggles of the people, and aligned to meeting their current and future strategic economic, social and political aspirations.
Anti-African development and self-reliance agents argue that Africa needs western investment and that multinational corporations are not the cause of Africa’s problems, but the solution. The need for foreign investment cannot be denied, but when these investments result in a hemorrhage of public funds and natural resources, without benefit to the people, they certainly are not the solution. Regina Jere-Malanda (November 2007, New African) argues that the “UN estimates that unfair trade rules deny poor countries US$700bn every year and 70% of that trade is controlled by multinational corporations.
British journalist George Monbiot puts it more vividly: “Debt, unfair terms of trade and poverty are not causes of Africa’s problems but symptoms. The cause is power; the ability of the G8 nations and their corporations to run other people’s lives.” The unchallenged power of the IMF and the World Bank to force poor countries to open up their markets to Western corporate and financial interests has generally weakened African governments.
African Economic Realities
The 2003 Human Development Report of the UNDP revealed the following, as quoted in the Financial Times, 9 July 2003: “Unless things improve it will take Sub-Saharan Africa until 2129 to achieve universal primary education, until 2147 to halve extreme poverty and until 2165 to cut child mortality by two-thirds.” While the world’s economies grew and expanded in the 90s, most of the African countries had become poorer. For instance, 291 million people had an average income below a dollar a day in 1998.
The UNCTAD Report of Least Developed Countries in 2002 revealed that: “… proportion of people in 29 African countries living below US$2 a day increased from 82 percent in late 1960s to 87.5 percent in late 1990s. For those in extreme poverty - under US$1 a day - the increase was from 55.8 percent to 64.9 percent. …. Africans in extreme poverty rose … from 89.9 million to 233.5 million over the same period.”
The challenge, as most agree, is to grow key productive sectors of the economy such as agriculture, and expand manufacturing and infrastructure, while investing in quality education and health care, in order to unleash economic growth. Endowed with vast mineral resources and human capital, Africa should collectively decide how to use these abundant resources for her development and for the improvement of Africans lives.
This must be our primary aim.
But unfortunately, some African leaders mimic Euro-centric models and development paths. The development models, such as NEPAD, a neo-liberal strategy, are based on assistance from the G8 to the tune of US$64 billion, which will never come!
Yet, Africa spends US$15 billion on arms, US$18 billion on food imports and roughly US$20 billion annual capital flight occurs, while corruption, a global problem, accounts for US$148 billion, as reckoned by George Ayittey in his book titled “Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future”.
The Lagos Plan of Action, Abuja Treaty, Cotonou and Lomé Agreements, NEPAD etcetera, will all remain meaningless if and unless Africa begins to develop inter-state trade in earnest. The lack of clear economic policies, which will inform and transform African foreign policy into a vessel for articulation of economic interests of the Continent persists. As long as African countries consider their international political and economic strategic interests intertwined with their former colonizers, Africa will remain fragmented.
Witness for example how Namibia and Germany have a ‘special relationship,” and how the francophone countries adore their linkages with France. We would wish to see African nations deliberately developing special relationships in economic and developmental terrains. These colonial-servant special relationships, renamed “development partnerships” influence national political and economic objectives from time to time. Although development cooperation is in itself not wrong, it is the conditionalities thereto attached that stifle the genuine development of the Africans.
Pan-Afrikanism will not be viable to the ordinary African as long as no effort of empowerment is made by African policy makers to empower the ordinary peasants, men, women and youth in each African village. Since the days of Kwame Nkrumah, there have been many meetings of Heads of State and other policy makers at continental and regional blocs. At such meetings however, where considerable empowerment opportunities manifest themselves, hardly do ordinary Africans get to be invited to tender for such services. Millions of dollars exchange hands at such functions but rural Africans are only spoken of but not represented. We do not know of any such gatherings where traditional leaders from our respective countries, for example, were invited to attend.
Inter-Africa Trade and Co-Operation
Despite an almost complete success at political decolonisation, Africa continues to fail at economic development and economic decolonization. Despite efforts to stimulate industrial growth, to foster agricultural production and to initiate other developments to bring about more fundamental changes in the economic structures inherited at independence, today’s reality is that the economic transformation of the continent which was expected to follow closely on the heels of political independence still remains a far-fetched dream.
Still, we run to the west to consult whether our economic plans are in line with their priorities. For example, since the formation of SADC, over 500 projects were designed for implementation. SADC countries hardly pumped in much needed funding. A classic example is the Grand Inga Dam situated in DRC which can light up the whole of Africa.
Infighting and indecisiveness has grinded the project to a halt. Estimated to be worth US$80 billion, and with the World Energy Council leading the scramble for Africa in this project, we can only expect the worse. We therefore recommend books such as Capitalist Nigger, the Confessions of Economic Hitmen and the Rise of Disaster Capitalism and other such books, for constant reading by all our policy makers in the African world.
We are unable to sponsor our own plans but we hasten to accept Millennium Challenge Accounts and Corporations’ aid that normally come with strings attached. A lot of talk about economic integration remains just that for the most part: talk and more talk!
For example, on the shelves of supermarkets here in Namibia there are hardly products from DRC, Tanzania, Zimbabwe or Malawi. Even for those commodities that are from South Africa, they may not be produced by Blacks in South Africa. SADC has declared a Free Trade Area, and we hope that our generation will see the meaningful successes that could emanate from this FTA. SADC countries should promote pro-poor, pro-growth policies by ensuring greater intra-trade amongst member states. Under the FTA it is estimated that 85% of intra-trade will be exempted from tariffs and the goal is to fully liberalize trade in the region by 2012.
Approximately 170 million people populate SADC with an estimated investment worth US$350 billion, which if marketed well can alleviate poverty. Since the majority of people in SADC reside in rural areas this demands from the governments to focus their productive energies on strengthening its agricultural industries and improving infrastructure. We further need to ensure that the Economic Partnership Agreement’s must support and be in concert with SADC FTA. We urge for SADC to introduce single SADC passports and to move swiftly to remove barriers to trade and finance.
Call To Action: African Youth
The African youth constitute more than 60% of Africa’s 800 million inhabitants. This naturally means that the myriad socio-economic challenges facing Africa disproportionately affect the African youth. Amongst these challenges include under-development, neo-colonialism and poverty. Whereas in the West, the young professionals and academics are enticed through NGOs such as Peace Corps and others to advance the foreign policies of their respective countries, in Africa the youth leaders, young professionals and academics are perceived with distrust, disdain, suspicion and commonly with allergy to the point of ridiculous absurdity. The modern economic war is best fought with an army of youth that are skilled, patriotic, loyal, dedicated and committed to the sovereignty, independence and economic prosperity of Africa.
Theo-Ben Gurirab, is right in recounting, in his opinion piece in the Southern Times newspaper, 29 June 2008, titled “Pan-Afrikanism: Let’s do more” when he argues that: “serious proponents and defenders of Pan-Afrikanism are expected to do more than recounting the African people’s glories or the decapitating injustices whose ghosts are sadly still lingering on our minds”. He further proceeds and challenges the youth, by posing this question: “The million dollar question is what did Africa’s youths do, not only at their debating but more importantly at their activist level?”
Indeed, these are appropriate and relevant questions as espoused by Comrade Gurirab. The reality is that the youth have over the years formed organizations such as SASU, Pan African Youth Union, African Youth Parliament etcetera, where they constantly engage on economic emancipation strategies of African youth. Youth shall now derive more teeth, once all African countries ratify and adopt the African Youth Charter.
Nonetheless, we salute Comrade Gurirab for reminding African youth leaders and parliamentarians that leadership is much more than cheerleading, or to go to parliament, or to get the highest number of votes in an election, or to sing loudest a revolutionary song. We take note from his wise counsel that focused, analytical, strategic and critical reasoning are vital tools for challenging untruths and for shaping a political and economic emancipatory strategy for change, in pursuit of a better life for all. As African youth, our collective hope is that the resources of the continent are equitably shared by all without regard to country, tribe, economic status, academic credentials or language affiliation. Above all, no African should go hungry or homeless.
Economics Of Pan Afrikanism In Namibia
The SWAPO Party Political Programme is a good blueprint for the implementation of economics of Pan-Afrikanism in Namibia. It spells out the historical origin of our modern State and the anti-imperialist solidarity from which our independence is derived.
On the basis of the Party Political Programme, successive Election Manifestos have been developed since 1989, to which the people of Namibia have given the electoral mandate of governance to the SWAPO Party for the past 18 years. As Namibia embarks upon the struggle of economic empowerment, we must not become as most developing countries have done – heavily dependent on foreign interests, foreign investments, foreign technology, foreign expertise, foreign theories of development and economic growth, and above all, on exports of raw materials and agricultural primary commodities to the rich, industrialized West. This leaves us open to economic dependency.
The decisions we make today can have devastating impact on the generation of tomorrow. In this regard, Namibians must be encouraged and assisted to engage in productive sectors of our economy. As a matter of reference, the Tourism Satellite Account of 2007, reports that N$5.2 billion was generated in the travel and tourism economy in Namibia.
During the same period, Namibia experienced an average tourism growth rate of 7-9%. In addition, the travel and tourism industry’s economic contribution should have risen from 16% in 2006 to 22% by 2016. Namibian travel and tourism capital investment is forecasted at N$1.3 billion. Moreover, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism reported that in 2006, 833,345 tourists visited Namibia.
The central question then is “How many indigenous Namibians benefited from this tourism growth, especially from the periods under review?” It is bad governance that whereas N$74 million was allocated for tourism development opportunities for previously disadvantaged people, during the period under review, that special tourism development money budgeted for that purpose was not spent!! For three years, new entrants to tourism were denied funding by the then policy maker entrusted with such a responsibility. At what level should this failure be accounted for?
Policy implementation is urgent. In our view, what this requires is a clear understanding of the role of the Political Programme in the modern state.
There must be a synergy between the economic empowerment contemplated in the Party Political Programme with the economic empowerment agenda of government; a synergy between social empowerment and all other empowerment contemplated in the Party Political Programme with the social empowerment agenda of government and so forth. This is after all, a government formed by the SWAPO Party, voted for by the overwhelming majority of the Namibian people.
It is further our view that genuine economic empowerment is contemplated in the SWAPO Party Election Manifesto together with the resolutions of both the SPYL 4th Congress and SWAPO Party 4th Congress. This was again reinforced at the trailblazing Economic Transformation Convention which was held by SPYL in mid-May this year.
In this respect, Youth Empowerment is an integral part of broader economic empowerment that can drive the economics of Pan Afrikanism in Namibia. The economics of Pan Afrikanism further implies the putting in place of sensible policy for black economic empowerment, not the cut-and-paste exercise we have witnessed over the past couple of years. In particular, there is no use in being allergic to black economic empowerment, it is already made provision for in the Namibian Constitution, all that is required is implementation. Properly implemented, it is not and cannot be exclusive but will be inclusive of all members of the Namibian society.
The recent decision by the Central Committee of SWAPO Party to direct its Government that all projects and tenders approved at the Tender Board as well as by Cabinet must have at least 30% empowerment component primarily drawn from rural areas is a realistic point of departure. Equally, recognizing that more than 50% of the national population is made up of young people, the Central Committee urged the SWAPO Party to continue positioning itself to devise specific measures to capture the youth constituency at all levels.
It is clear from this that the Party is not allergic to the youth or youth empowerment. It means the SWAPO Party and its Government recognize the contribution of young people in our modern society particularly youth organisations such as SWAPO Party Youth League, NANSO, National Youth Council and National Youth Service.
It is imperative that the Ministry responsible for youth affairs clearly understands this expectation, although it is doubtful that there is such passion shared at the present moment. It is also required that various ministries continue to devise measures geared towards oiling the economics of Pan-Afrikanism. For example, in all 107 constituencies and 13 regions of Namibia there should be social amenities commensurate with modern living. As regards the youth, all 107 constituency offices should be equipped with DStv, Internet facilities, SMEs information, recording studios, recreational equipment, etcetera - which should be made available at the constituency level throughout the country.
In this respect, SOEs and O/M/As should make budgetary allocation towards the above needs. The economics of Pan-Afrikanism cannot happen in a vacuum, there has got to be pragmatism. Effectively therefore and as we have done in the previous article, PACON cannot be left to float away from the original intention of its formation. There will be no let up to ensure that PACON truly lives up to its original mission and vision.
• Bernadus C. Swartbooi, Henny H. Seibeb and T. Elijah Ngurare are “Students of Pan-Afrikanism”
1. Henny H. Seibeb, Bernadus C. Swartbooi, T. Elijah Ngurare, Pan-Afrikanism in Namibia: Alive or Dying Out? New Era, May 2008
2. Theo-Ben Gurirab “Pan-Afrikanism: Let’s do more”, Southern Times newspaper, 29 June 2008
3. Basil Davidson, Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation State
4. Dr Chika A. Onyeani, Capitalist Nigger: The Road to Success; A Spider-Web Doctrine
5. John Perkins, Confessions of Economic Hit Men
6. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents
7. George Ayittey, Africa Unchained: the Blueprint for Africa’s future
8. The New African Magazine
9. Naomi Klein, The Rise of Disaster Capi-talism
Economics of Pan-Afrikanism in Contemporary Africa