Africa’s slow growth pace and a vicious cycle since independce

Reading time 8 min.

About 80% of financial aid to Africa is sent back into Western bank accounts of Africa’s dictators and corrupt leaders. In 2004 about $94 billion was deposited into Swiss accounts, most originating from African politicians, and in 2005 the amount increased to $150 billion.

The dictatorial and repressive regimes installed since the end of the Cold War, which followed 60 years of colonial rule, lack incentives, and are beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people; these governments have embezzled financial aids without consequences.

According to Zambian economist, Dambisa Moyo, formerly of Goldman Sachs, and the World Bank in Washington D.C, what the aid-based system has done to Africa is that it has encouraged corruption, created dependency, fuelled inflation, created debt burdens, destroyed entrepreneurship, and disenfranchised Africans. As history has shown, no country has meaningfully reduced poverty, induced significant, and sustainable levels of economic growth by relying on aid.

Countries like Ireland have created jobs for their populations through trade and encouraged foreign and domestic investment, thus financing development, facilitating their growth and alleviating their populations from poverty and suffering, and African countries that have relied on perpetual aid without any incentives have remained crawling. With financial aid readily available, African leaders, over the years, have proven to be irresponsible, unaccountable and indifferent, and so Moyo argues that it is futile to maintain the fruitless aid tradition.

Forty years ago, Moyo states, China was poorer than many African countries, but today it is the biggest lender to even the western nations. “They achieved this by building an aid independent society,” emphasizes Moyo. She argues for more innovative ways for Africa to finance development including trade with China, accessing the capital markets, and micro financing.

Financial aid such as the Marshall plan given to European countries after WW II by the United States played vital roles in economic construction and reconstruction. But the marshal plan was short, sharp and finite, whereas the aid- dependency approaches; open-ended commitments with no end in sight, was reserved for Africa. The problem with an open-ended system according to Moyo is of course, that African governments have no incentive to look for other, better, ways of financing their development.

Illusive help

By Purchasing hot commodities from combatants, by operating timber or mining concessions offered by warlords or rebel forces, facilitating shipment of illicit raw materials, by operating in countries with repressive government, by helping to procure arms for government troops that engage in human right violations, developed nations have facilitated and maintained Africa’s tribal wars and conflicts, political, economic, and social inequality, crises of state legitimacy, weak state institutions, political economy where access to resources is determined by violence and greed.

On June 18, 2009, a Ukrainian aircraft carrying 18 crates with mines and ammunition was detained in Nigeria: Some observers said the arms-loaded plane was destined for the Niger Delta militants to sustain the anarchy that allows the rebels to steal oil and sell to foreign nations at black market rates, and some said it was destined for Equatorial Guinea to bolster rebellion against the government and maintain the instability that allows miscreants and foreign nations to exploit the oil wealth. This recent development only highlights the business of arms proliferation by some foreign governments in order to keep African nations unsettled, so that their corporations and greedy African individuals can benefit from illegal trade in resources.

Paul Collier, director of the development research group at the World Bank has been one of the earliest to argue that greed and the availability of loot-able natural resources wealth are key factors of War in post-colonial Africa. Although some of today’s conflicts have their roots in long-standing grievances, there is a self-sustaining vicious cycle at work in which the spoils of resources exploitation fund war, and war provides the means and conditions that allow continued illegitimate access to these resources. While former colonialist have given billions in financial aid, they have given trillions in arm supplies and ammunitions, and taken trillions in form of natural resources and raw materials.

In 2006, a United Nations panel of experts published a list of western corporations (backed by their governments) that have helped perpetrate resource-based conflicts in Africa, patronized black market resources, accepted illegal mining contracts offered by rebel leaders and warlords, bartered arms for resources, carried out illicit arms vending, and control resource mines in African countries: The African conflicts that has claimed the lives of millions of Africans in reality has been battles for coltan, diamonds, cassiterite, oil and gold destined for sale in London, New York, Antwerp and Paris.

Wars begin as a pursuit of markets for natural resources and for wealth and the availability and loot-ability of natural resources in weak, politically repressive and undemocratic African states with vulnerable economies breed resource-conflicts. These wars have been easy to create because of the politics of divide and rule that was applied during colonialism. Divide and rule gave birth to political, economic, and social inequality, crises of state legitimacy, weak state institutions, political economy where access to resources is determined by violence and greed, and the mobilization of groups with shared ethnic or religious identities.

Western nations have given about three trillion dollars to Africa in the past sixty years (a gesture some have described as a western albatross). Between 1970 and 2000, financial aid to Africa was increased, yet Africa’s poverty rate shot up from 11% to 66%. For many reasons, Africa on the whole is worse off today than it was 40 years ago, despite half-a-century of financial intervention.

The World Bank and the IMF loan money to needy countries in return of the structural adjustment of their economies: This means that the economic direction of each country would be planned, monitored, and controlled in Washington. According to James Sackey, former World Bank Country Representative in Sierra Leone “The privatizations, trade liberalization, high interest rates that was demanded of African nations borrowing from the IMF and World bank led to the dumping of cheap and substandard products such as clothes, shoes, body-lotions, etcetera, that flooded African markets and limited local industries that produced or intend to produce the same products”. Scholars and human rights activists have often accused the World Bank and the IMF’s aggressive dealings of worsening the debt crisis in developing countries, devastating local ecologies and indigenous communities.

The genesis

Africa’s woes began when King Leopold II convinced France and Germany that exploitation of Africa was in the best interests of all three countries. According to recorded history, Otto von Bismarck of Germany called on representatives of Austria–Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal,Russia, Spain, Sweden, Norway, the Ottoman-Empire, and the United States to take part in the Berlin Conference to work out a policy to divide Africa amongst themselves; its people, its wealth, and its freedom.

What has been practiced in Africa after the Berlin conference is economic inequalities and exploitation; the class divide between developed nations and poor African nations is maintained by ideologies, notions and actions of repression: Africa today is generally weak, and is economically and militarily dependent on external benefactors, mostly industrialized and developed states. African leaders installed by former colonialist have proven to be concerned with relative gains and short-term benefits, than long-term benefits and absolute gains.

Realist and Africa

Former colonialists operate within the politics of realism and thus will not go out-and-out to save Africa. They will assist, and give Africa enough to survive, but will not heal Africa. John Mearsheimer summed this view up in his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics: “Given the difficulty of determining how much power is enough for today and tomorrow, great powers recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now, thus eliminating any possibility of a challenge by another great power. Only a misguided state would pass up an opportunity to become hegemonic in the system because it thought it already had sufficient power to survive.”

Illusive support for competent governance

According to reports, the Late Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso who antagonized many vested interests in Burkina Faso, and promoted health and women’s rights in the country, was assassinated, under the instruction of the French. Louis Rwagasore who spearheaded Burundi’s anti-colonial movement against Belgium was gunned down by a Greek under the payroll of the pro-Belgian Christian Democratic Party. Ruben Um Nyobé an anti-imperialist who struggled to obtain independece for Cameroun was reportedly slain by the French army. Patrice Émery Lumumba who fought for Congo’s independence from Belgium, the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo was imprisoned and murdered under the command of the US and Belgian governments.

Amílcar Lopes Cabral a nationalist politician who led African nationalist movements in Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands, and led Guinea-Bissau’s independence movement was assassinated by agents of Portuguese colonialism. Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, a socialist politician, who fought for Mozambique independence from Portugal, was killed by the Portuguese secret police.

These leaders who fought for the independence of their countries were murdered because they represented true freedom and greater things for Africa: Former colonialist, to ensure that independence and development was illusive, installed most of the African leaders that proved to be corrupt, insensitive and short-sighted; the leaders who have been blamed for Africa’s slow-paced growth.

Progressivism is a political and social term that refers to ideologies and movements favoring or advocating progress, changes, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are. According to Kofi Annan, the determination of Africans and genuine partnership between Africa and the rest of the world is the basis for Africa’s growth and development.

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