Foreign ‘economic aid’ are velvet shackles around the necks of today’s Africans – By Mohamed Hamaludin

Foreign ‘economic aid’ to Africa – By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

Africa covers 11.73 million square miles or 20 percent of the Earth’s land mass and has 1.2 billion people or 16 percent of all human beings — second only to Asia in both categories — and a GDP of $6.4 trillion, the seventh largest.

The continent also has 30 percent of the planet’s mineral resources, including oil and gas, uranium, cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold and bauxite. Yet, 30 of its 54 countries are among the poorest in the world, due to a history of famine and wars and centuries of occupation by countries including Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.   

As Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago and later Walter Rodney of Guyana noted, the conqueror nations went on to become economic powerhouses, mostly through the wealth and human beings they stole from Africa (and other countries with colored people).

They also stole most of their civilization. Some 90 percent of African art, for example, is housed in museums and private collections outside of the continent, according to a report which French President Emmanuel Macron commissioned.

Absence of technological development means Africa remains a source for raw materials, the reason for a current race to create a new form of exploitation that is aided by never-ending cycles of civil wars – around 15 currently– and a desperate need for capital and startling levels of corruption.

China has a head start, which is understandable because Sino-African relations go back to at least the 1960s, when, as Foreign Policy magazine noted, China not only “supported anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements across Africa” but also “supplied financial assistance and logistical support” for countries such as Algeria, South Africa and Sudan in their liberation struggles.

Overall, China is now the continent’s “largest trade partner, one of the biggest foreign direct investors and its most prolific financier of infrastructure projects.”

China’s president Xi Jinping recently hosted nearly all the 54 African leaders at a summit in Beijing, where it was announced that the Chinese government will provide $60 billion in loans and grants to the continent — in addition to ongoing commitments.

Some of the former occupiers are scrambling to play catch-up. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkle separately visited a few countries and pledged billions of dollars in investment and aid.

(May was visiting the continent even as Britain continues to refuse to return sovereignty to Mauritius of the Chagos Islands, its last African colony. Britain and the U.S. seized the islands to make way for an American military base on an atoll, Diego Garcia. The British forcibly ejected all 2,000 residents, described as “some few Tarzans and Man Fridays,” according to leaked British diplomatic cables, the Quartz news site reported.)

Europe as a whole also wants stronger links with the continent. Figures cited by the BBC show the European Union’s trade with Africa at $300 billion, followed by China with $188 billion, the U.S., $53 billion, and Britain itself, $36 billion.

As for the U.S., only nine presidents have visited Africa, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943, but America does have a record of helping the continent.  Chaorong Wang of the Borgen Project reported that the U.S. gave $97.67 billion in Official Development Assistance to sub-Saharan Africa over 18 year, mostly for infrastructure projects but also as humanitarian aid. And, recently, the beleaguered Overseas Private Investment Corporation was suddenly replaced with a new U.S. International Development Financial Corporation with a $60 billion budget, much of it apparently intended for Africa.

Still, U.S.-Africa relations remain stained by Washington’s collusion with Britain to perpetuate apartheid in South Africa and ongoing drone attacks, intensified by, of all people, then President Barack Obama, a half-son of Africa, as part of the perpetual “war on terror.” And it took President Donald Trump more than a year in office to host an African leader at the White House, Nigeria’s Muhammad Buhari. That was three months after the president referred to African nations as “sh*t holes,” while praising white nations such as Norway.

Africa has vast potential but that cannot be realized by being shackled to obscene amounts of foreign loans, collectively totaling more than $400 billion. The money is  paying for gleaming new edifices rising into the African skies but debt contributes to the impoverishment of borrower nations: Some $40 billion more wealth leaves Africa than the continent receives, according to Global Justice Now.

It is now almost impossible for Africa to wean itself from this poisonous economic nutrition, at least in the foreseeable future, but that is the only way that the continent can begin to establish genuine independence and finally break free of foreign domination.  How that happens depends on a new vision among the 54 leaders.

An emphasis on equitable trade that includes technology transfers may be one answer. So too is unity perhaps through a United States of Africa to give the continent the bargaining power to deal as equals with the rest of the world. Members of the diaspora, such as African Americans, can play an important role in that regard by being ready to provide any support needed.

______

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • Trevor  On December 1, 2018 at 1:53 am

    China isn’t telling Africa to accept white feminists to push a gay or feminist agenda.

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