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Saturday, 12 September 2009 13:30

Wealth For Africa, Not From Africa

By William Gumede

SOUTH AFRICA, Sept 10 (Sowetan) - With much of Africa facing an effective re-colonisation in the wake of the global financial crisis, William Gumede underlines the importance of ever increasing cooperation and trade between African countries.

 

As forces to the east and west alike plunder the continent's mineral wealth, it remains the task of African countries themselves to develop a continental common market and political union based on sound democratic foundations, Gumede concludes.

 

The after-effects of the global financial crisis may lead to the re-colonisation of some African countries, with some likely to go bankrupt and others stripped of their assets by Western and Eastern powers.

 

The signs of Africa’s re-colonisation are ominous and action is needed quickly; there is no time to dilly-dally, shout slogans or stay stuck in blaming imperialist forces – which are of course also responsible – without coming up with effective responses.

 

Europe is already planning to link the hydroelectric dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to supply power to southern Europe. The project has the backing of the World Bank. Yet very few people in the DRC have access to electricity.

 

Actually, less than 10 per cent of Congolese have access to electricity, and indeed continent-wide United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) figures show that less than 30 per cent of Africans have access to electricity. In all the countries through which the planned pipeline and its electricity will flow from the DRC to Europe, very few ordinary citizens have access to electricity.

 

In August this year, the European Union signed an agreement with Nigeria, Niger and Algeria to channel gas to Europe through a direct pipeline to that continent. Again, Nigeria, Niger and Algeria cannot even supply gas to their own citizens.

 

In July this year, a consortium of European companies announced that they would build a facility that will direct solar polar from the Sahara Desert to Europe.

 

They said the plan would satisfy 15 per cent of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. Western and Eastern governments and multinationals are increasingly also buying African land to set up commercial agricultural businesses from which they export products back to their countries or to other markets.

 

A South Korean multinational bought fertile land in Madagascar and Sudan at a pittance. Indian farming companies have fertile lands in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique.

 

Chinese companies and Middle East-owned companies are also increasingly buying tracts of land for agricultural purposes. A report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) stated more than 2.5 hectares of African land had been bought by foreign companies since 2004, and this is only scratching the surface.

 

Yet most African countries now import food. Similarly, foreign companies are also increasingly buying up African mines on the australia online casinos cheap, as African countries fail to come up with economic strategies to deal with the devastating effects of the global financial crisis and the closure of mines, factories and farms.

 

Western and Asian countries buy up African minerals to stockpile supply to buttress global commodity price fluctuations. They are looking for strategic commodities, including platinum, oil and gas.

 

The African Union estimates that more than US$150 billion a year is looted from Africa through tax avoidance by giant corporations and capital flight using 'a pinstripe infrastructure' of Western banks, lawyers and accountants.

 

But is not only money that leaves Africa every year, it is also skills which are leaving in the brain drain of local expertise to industrial countries. The brain drain is a combination of hostile environments in Africa, with a lack of democracy in African countries, jobs being allocated through jobs-for-pals and political buddy systems.

 

African countries must now increase manufacturing and trade with each other and with their neighbours. We must stop simply exporting raw materials, which generates little jobs, and instead beneficiate and diversify.

 

We need to pool our money, knowledge and expertise. We will need effective leadership and to jettison the likes of Robert Mugabe.

 

Furthermore, we must boost the quality of our democracies and cobble together industrial policies through developmental coalitions between governments, communities, businesses and civil societies.

 

Finally, African countries together must speedily form a continental common market and political union, underpinned by democracy.

 

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