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Why the World Needs Africa

by on May 28, 2010

Africa is still a prize highly desired by the rest of the world, writes Graham Knight.

From the colonial struggle for Africa to the present day competition for Africa’s raw materials and new markets, Africa has been a desirable prize for foreign powers. Nowadays, even the idea of ‘Africa’ is also a cause for people to enhance their careers.

Colonialism never ended

The colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

It is recognised by almost everyone that colonialism is a bad thing. They teach this in the schools in England. We have also been taught that colonialism in Ghana ended 50 years ago when Nkrumah won independence. Colonialism certainly ended but now appears to be continuing under a different name.

The aim of colonialism was eloquently expressed by the colonialist Cecil Rhodes:

We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.

It seems little has changed. And Africa is still a momentous prize to win. It is the home to strategic minerals and some of the largest deposit of natural resources such as timber, diamonds, gold, bauxite and coltan. 8 of the world’s oil producing countries are in Africa: Nigeria, Sudan, Algeria, Chad, Egypt and Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Democratic Republic of Congo. West Africa supplies 12% of the oil needs of America. America’s National Intelligence Council predicts this will rise to 25% by 2015.

Africa needs help?

Sitting on such a desired prize, it makes one wonder at the African’s strange propensity to appear over grateful when a foreigner expresses interest in their country. They should indeed feel flattered but often appear submissive. One reason may be they feel they have little of value and believe themselves and their culture to be inferior. Whatever the reason they are hoping that the foreigner is going to help them.

But is it not astonishing that some people can still think that the aim of foreign businesses (and let us not forget that the World Bank is also a business) is to ‘help’ Africa? Businesses have a legal requirement to make profit for their shareholders. Any expression of interest in Africa is because they realise the profit to be made.

And help from governments has the same aim. Margaret Beckett of Tony Blair’s government stated on 18 April, 2007 that the job of government is ‘to make sure that the rest of the world’ is ‘safe and well-disposed for our businesses’. Gordon Brown, now British prime minister implored the CBI, last November, to be ‘evangelists for globalisation’ through which Britain will ‘find its destiny as a nation’. Both Blair and Brown have imposed neo-liberal policies on Africa, resulting in the destruction of the local economy and an open market for powerful companies to exploit.

John Perkins was an economic hit man. He describes his role as follows:

Economic hit men are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

Edward Goldsmith notes:

The pretext [for development] was to fight poverty and make Third World countries wealthy like us, the reality was to open up their markets to American and other Western corporations and to gain access to their cheap labour and cheap raw materials.” (Goldsmith, open letter to Jagdish Bhagwati)

After so many years of this kind of help is it any wonder things only appeared to have got worse?

Africa can enhance status

Bob "Mr Africa" Geldolf

Africa has also given celebrities and politicians power based on their confessed concern for the continent. Sir Bob Geldof, ex-singer with the Boomtown Rats and Bono, the lead singer of U2, are the self-proclaimed champions of Africa. Geldolf has described himself as “Mr Africa”.

Geldof’s new career as the campaigner for Africa has generated a TV series, books and massive rock concerts.

Bono has declared:

Bono - Africa’s representative

I represent a lot of people [in Africa] who have no voice at all…They haven’t asked me to represent them. It’s cheeky but I hope they’re glad I do.

Bono appears to have had a good deal of influence at the G8 conference in Heiligendamm in Germany. Although nobody elected him, he met with almost all the world leaders present and his own version of the conference dominated the UK press.

Paul Theroux argues:

Because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth.

From Geldolf, Bono, Blair, the G8, various NGOs and so on, these people, unelected by Africans, claim to know what is best for Africa. This moral posturing gives them credibility and status, gives them the ‘feel-good factor’, even though they may do little or nothing in return.

Identity as intellectual self-defence

Without a proper appreciation of culture and identity, Africans will continue to fall foul to the project once called colonisation. It’s important to keep up-to-date with what is going on outside the country and to read behind the lines of policy documents. Whilst Africans continue to believe that foreign things are better than local things, that foreign minds are better than African minds, that modernity is better than tradition, they will continue to be colonised.


From → Development, Identity

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