The Political Economy of Ebola

[Arrogant claims that “there is no alternative” to capitalism explode when held up to stubborn facts like the spread of Ebola in Africa–a disease whose most damning feature is that the racist profit system requires that an entire continent be kept in a state of permanent vulnerabilty, because the resources which could solve the scourge of this disease are tightly held for profitable pursuits and issues closer to the hearts of the privleged.  The people deserve, and, in time, will create a system based on our common interests and needs, (which will put the profit-oriented inhumanity of today in museums for generations of bewildered people to study.)  —  Frontlines ed.]
Ebola is a problem that will not be solved, because it isn’t profitable to do so.

Joseph Ferdinand Keppler / Library of Congress

The Onion (a satirical newspaper in the US — ed.), as ever, is on point with its “coverage” of the worst recorded outbreak of Ebola, and the first in West Africa, infecting some 1,779 people and killing at least 961. “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away,” read the cheeky headline of the July 31 news brief.

Our shorthand explanation is that if the people infected with Ebola were white, the problem would be solved. But the market’s role in both drug companies’ refusal to invest in research and the conditions on the ground created by neoliberal policies that exacerbate and even encourage outbreaks goes unmentioned.

Racism is certainly a factor. Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist and the head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the largest medical research charities in the world, told the Toronto Star: “Imagine if you take a region of Canada, America, Europe, and you had 450 people dying of a viral hemorrhagic fever. It would just be unacceptable — and it’s unacceptable in West Africa.”

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Washington in Africa: Who will Obama ‘whack’ next?

[An important and detailed look at Washington’s Obama-era African policy initiatives.  Lengthy, but well worth reading.  The conclusions drawn from the information provided are the author’s, and do not necessarily imply Frontlines’ perspective.  —  Frontlines ed.]

Graphic from The Economist

 

by Patrick Bond, Address to the Muslim Youth Movement 40th Anniversary Conference, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, September 30, 2012.  Article was posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author’s permission.

 

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends. – Former US president Jimmy Carter, 25 June 2012, New York Times

US actions since 9/11 represent the final stage in the US’s century-long effort to complete the project of making US-led globalization a concrete reality across the world through three historical moments: 1) the attempted creation of a global Monroe doctrine between 1898 and 1919; 2) the Roosevelt administration’s creation of the Bretton Woods Institutions – the World Bank and IMF – and the UN; and 3) globalization – the US-led effort to establish a new global regime based on free trade, deregulation, and privatization. – Neil Smith, The Endgame of Globalization, 2005

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and former three-time ambassador, Johnnie Carson, was feted by Brooks Spector recently at Daily Maverick, in an article entitled “America’s Mr Africa”. While it is always fitting to honour African-Americans who persevere to the top despite that country’s deep internal racism, Spector makes contentious political and economic claims about the “new” US Africa policy. “For some observers at least”, he says, “Barack Obama’s new partnership with Africa was announced in his speech in Accra [July 11, 2009], when he declared the era of the authoritarian African big man to be over – kaput!”[1] As described below, however, Washington has maintained extremely cozy relationships with a variety of African dictators.

Spector then endorses Carson’s claims that “US interests in the continent fundamentally stem from its interest in strengthening trade to help African states grow their economies and meet development needs”, and that “the US wants to work with African nations to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance and efforts to stamp out corruption [and] to spur economic growth through market-driven, free trade principles”. Sorry, but we recall Washington’s deregulatory support for Wall Street’s market-driven binge, which in 2008-09 contributed to the worst global economic crash in 80 years, resulting in around a million South African job losses. We know that only the wealthy recovered so far, and that in the US, the top 1 per cent received 93 per cent of all new income since 2009, because the system wasn’t fixed. And who can forget White House hypocrisy when it comes to vast and often illegal US agro-corporate subsidies which continue to thwart African production? And is there any capital city whose political system is more corrupted by corporate (especially banking) campaign contributions than Washington, resulting in such extreme malgovernance that Obama cannot even make an effort to convict a single banker for world-historic economic misdeeds?

Spector’s most flawed assumption is that by increasing trade with (and vulnerability to) the world economy, “Africa” grows. Although a few elites have certainly grown rich from extraction, the opposite is more true, if we make a simple, rational adjustment to GDP: incorporating the wasting of Africa’s “natural capital” (a silly phrase but one used increasingly by powerbrokers eyeing the ‘Green Economy’). Measuring this loss is something that 10 African leaders agreed to start doing so in May, in the Gabarone Declaration initiated by Botswana president Ian Khama and the NGO Conservation International. The adjustment entails counting the outflow of natural capital (especially non-renewable mineral/petroleum resources) not only as a short-term credit to GDP (via “output of goods” measuring the resources extracted and sold), but also as a long-term debit to the natural capital stocks, as non-renewable resources no longer become available to future generations. Number-crunch the resource depletion, and net wealth declines in Africa as well as the Middle East. Continue reading

NGOs, weapons of “populist/humanitarian” imperialism, now wielded by competing imperialists in the new scramble for Africa

[From the Crusades and in the earliest years of colonialism, conquests and conquistadores arrived with more than guns and swords and armies.  They brought Bibles, and missionaries, and, in time, Christian charities, anthropologists, humanitarians and investors, intelligence operatives of CIA and other varieties.  In time, the restructuring of direct colonial relations into neo-colonial forms introduced by the Ford Foundation, vast arrays of “civil society” groups, cultural programs and comprador governments and training programs for junior officers and police captains.  And these came from throughout the global imperialist system, but unevenly.  Largely dominated by the US, with increasing inputs from Europe, there were parallel NGO-type ventures launched by the Soviets during its waning years, and growing Islamic charities and Jewish charities.  None of which were accountable to the local populations they each claimed to serve and represent.  Now, as the world imperialist system is confronted by ever-sharpening crisis, the US/EU hegemonic bloc is no longer riding securely and unchallengable or unchallenged, and so the growing competitive imperialist powers and blocs-in-formation are bringing similar instruments into the developing fray (which is still largely regional but getting some global features).  Not surprisingly, the ever-growing-imperialist China is opening this field of political and cultural cultivation to match their economic onslaught in Africa and elsewhere.  The ventures described here have not often been clarified, but along with their media work (CCTV) and their BRICS “development” initiatives, it bears watching and giving close attention.  Worldwide, revolutionary forces are learning to keep their distance from these imperialist tools and to carefully guard their independence and revolutionary initiative. — Frontlines ed.]

Africa-China4Challenging opportunity

By Liu Hongwu (China Daily), 2013-04-26

Increased grassroots engagements will help Chinese NGOs blaze new trail

Increased engagements and people-to-people exchanges, especially between non-governmental organizations from China and Africa, have given a new dimension and perspective to what Africa and the rest of the world thinks about China.

Taking a cue from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000, many Chinese companies are spreading their wings in Africa and are fast becoming vital parts for Chinese NGOs.

Chinese NGOs have ensured that their activities are broad-based and cover important segments like healthcare, environmental protection and education. Prominent among them are the China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation. Several national and regional commerce chambers like the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade are also doing projects in Africa. Academic institutions and groups like the Chinese Society of Asian and African Studies are also in the fray.

According to current estimates, there are more than 100 Chinese NGOs in Africa. There are several factors that are unique to these engagements. Continue reading

African-Chinese labor relations turn increasingly icy

Chinese and Tanzanian workers

Africa Review, 20 October 2010

Janet Otieno, Johnstone Ole Turana and Saudah Mayanja, Nairobi

Africa has been witnessing an influx of Chinese investors and labourers

Beijing has even gone an extra mile by opting for the softer approach of “not interfering in the continent’s political affairs” to justify its economic pursuits in Africa. But the Chinese stand accused of not being any better than Africa’s former colonial masters when it comes to their labour practices.

Late last week, Chinese mine managers shot and wounded 11 of their employees in southern Zambia over a pay dispute, sparking a countrywide outrage in the southern African nation.

And this is not just the first incident in the country. A few months ago, local workers at a Chinese-owned copper mine went on strike demanding better working conditions. The strike turned into a riot with reports of a Chinese manager firing at the crowd and injuring people.

Complaints raised

More episodes on the continent capture the increasingly icy Afro-Chinese labour relations.

A year ago in Mozambique, an argument broke out between a provincial governor, Mr Mauricio Vieira and the China Henan International Cooperation Group (CHICO). After winning a contract to build a new water supply system to service the capital Maputo and other surrounding towns, the firm had barely began work than complaints from local workers about poor treatment at the hands of the Chinese bosses surfaced. Continue reading

Africa: First-class failure by Patrick Bond

[Patrick Bond, a leading critic of the post-colonial comprador-ist African governance, is what many consider to be the “left” of the civil society intellectuals.  Here is his latest, on the decades since many African countries gained formal independence.-ed.]

BBC-Africa magazine, September 2010

Frantz Fanon put his finger on the problem, in his classic The Wretched of the Earth: “The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary . . . the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the mask of neocolonialism.”

Four decades later in 2001, the continent’s most powerful rulers attempted a self-help plan, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), and in the same intermediary spirit won an accolade from the Bush administration’s top official for Africa, Walter Kansteiner, who called Nepad ‘philosophically spot-on’.

The problem is that not only have Africa’s attempts to police its own elite – its grand project – failed, but in the process this failure has showed up the distance between that very same African elite and the continent’s people.

From the start it was obvious that Nepad – former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s brainchild – served Western rather than African interests: promoting export-oriented growth rather than balanced development, foreign debt repayment at all costs, foreign investment concessions, privatisation and the extension of structural adjustment ideology into state social services.

Continue reading

French Neo-Colonialism in Africa after Independence

[August 7, the Ivory Coast celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from France.  An army parade marked the day, amid speculation that the national elections, now postponed for several years, may soon occur.  What has become of the hopes for independence?  How do they measure against the reality of today?  And what needs to be done?  These are questions being asked, and debated, in the 17 countries of Africa which are celebrating their 50 years of independence in 2010.  This article, published a year ago, discusses the legacy of French colonialism and neo-colonialism in the Ivory Coast.-ed.]

Ivory Coast soldiers parade take part in a celebration commemorating 50 years of Ivorian independence as they carry the flags of African nations also celebrating their 50th independence day at the presidential palace in Abidjan

by Godsway Yao Sappor

ModernGhana.com, February 05, 2009

…………

French Neo-Colonialist ideas in Africa after Independence (Cote D’Ivoire a Case Study)

The brutal legacy of European colonialism and neo-colonialism as forms of imperialism manifests itself in various ways in Africa. In the 19th century, French imperialism colonized more African territory than any other of its European counterparts. Many countries colonized by France gained their formal independence in the early 1960s due to heroic anti-colonial national liberation struggles that spread throughout the African continent. Despite the formal declaration of independence for the colonized countries, France among other colonizing European countries, maintains deep economic, military and administrative ties to almost all its former colonies among them Cote D’Ivoire. Like so much of Africa, Cote D’Ivoire is rich in natural resources, especially oil, natural gas, cocoa beans, and coffee. Despite this abundance of resources, the per capita income in 1996 was only $600.

When independence was granted to colonized African states, many were happy because they thought the Colonial masters had packed their package and were gone for good. The euphoria of independence for Cote D’Ivoire, just like most African countries, lasted up to the early 1980s. New imperialists and the former colonial master have made a triumphant comeback in Ivory Coast in the form of neo-colonialism. Until recently, Neo-colonialism has been chiefly associated with political and economic matters. Today, it is also inextricably tangled with so many other things such as conflict resolution and peace-keeping in so many African countries. The comeback of the colonial masters to Ivory Coast, just like any other African country, is keeping the country artificially poor. Continue reading

Neo-colonialism and the scramble for Africa

[This year, we are witnessing a new scramble for Africa.  Barron’s (financial newspaper) has highlighted Africa as The Final Frontier.  The US base in Dijibouti, on a former French Foreign Legion base, is being joined by a new Japanese base.  Chinese investments are rapidly multiplying and outpacing all.  India is building factories in Africa.  The US’ AFRICOM is applying the methods of the School of the Americas and of the joint US-Philipine Balikatan exercises to Africa, aiming to play headmaster in the training of African forces.  Here, CNN trumpets the 50th anniversaries–this month, August 2010–of the independence of African countries from “classical” models of colonialism.  We will be bringing attention to these developments, and to the developing understandings of dependency, semi-colonialism, neo-colonialism, and polyarchy in the present–and to the struggles for genuine independence, self-determination and revolutionary transformation.-ed]

CNN, August 2, 2010

CNN Editor’s note: This year 17 African nations mark 50 years of independence from their former colonial rulers. Eight of those countries celebrate their anniversary in August, they include Benin, Ivory Coast and Gabon. CNN.com is marking this major milestone with special coverage in August looking at the continent’s past, present and future.

(CNN) — The wave of Independence across Africa in the 1950s and 1960s brought to the end around 75 years of colonial rule by Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and — until World War I — Germany.

Before 1880, Europeans had only made small incursions into Africa, with forts and trading posts mainly around the coast, according to Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society in Britain.

The interior until then remained largely inaccessible to Europeans because of disease and difficulty of travel.

“Then the new unified Germany began to flex its muscles. It saw Britain and France ruling the world and wanted to compete for its ‘place in the sun’. Its explorers were beginning to penetrate the continent,” Dowden told CNN. Continue reading