New words, old tunes, same dance

Once again the ever gullible African “leaders”, intellectually bankrupt as they always are, have allowed themselves to be ridiculed by their local and Western economic advisers. This time around they have been hoodwinked into adopting a 201-point nonsensical package of a so-called African Renaissance project christened the “New Partnership For Africa’s Development”. (NEPAD). Foremost among the shameless stooges dishonestly claiming authorship of the bogus document are Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade, Nigeria’s Obasanjo, and South Africa’s Mbeki. Adopted in 2001 at Abuja, Nigeria. NEPAD is now gathering momentum with conference upon conference being organised to extol its virtues. It is therefore our duty to expose this cankerworm that it is.

The architects of this programme claim that they are inspired by what they see as an increasing number of African countries with “good governance”. In their words “the number of democratically elected leaders are on the increase” (No. 44) and “across the continent democracy is spreading” (No. 45). This view of theirs leaves conscious people wondering what “democracy” stands for here since the state and its institutions all over Africa still remain fundamentally as elitist as when the colonialists introduced them here. Political parties are still the personal organisations of a few wealthy individuals who always employ all sorts of dirty tricks to win elections. To assume, therefore, that there is a democracy in Africa (or even in George W. Bush’s USA) which serves as a basis for development is to daydream.

They go further to talk (in No. 8 and 27) of consolidating and celebrating the “gains” that Africans have achieved through the years. Nothing could be more preposterous and an insult to the suffering masses. The ordinary people of Africa have seen their living conditions jump from the frying pan into the fire all these years – which in fact is even why the NEPAD came into being. What then are the economic gains to consolidate? Is it the increasing poverty, illiteracy, disease, starvation, squalor, etc? Or maybe the leaders are thinking their five-star hotels and beautiful beaches which are exclusively reserved for the wealthy Western tourists and World Bank and IMF “experts”.

Not unexpectedly, and like all other previous theories and strategies for development (which woefully failed), the document claims that NEPAD differs in approach and strategy from the earlier plans and initiatives in that it is an African-owned and African-led programme (Nos. 59 and 60). But this argument comes up against a two-pronged snag. In the first place Africa is not a homogenous unit. The continent comprises a mass of hewers of wood and drawers of water on the one hand and a few privileged fat cats sitting on Africa’s wealth on the other hand. These two groups have interests which are miles apart. The idea that NEPAD “is based on the agenda set by African peoples through their own initiatives and of their own volition to shape their own destiny” (No. 48) and that “we are, therefore, asking the African peoples to take up the challenge of mobilising in support of the implementation of this initiative” is sheer nonsense.

The mere existence of leaders and the led; the privileged and the unfortunate ; or the “smart” and the “dull” is itself a reflection of the class-divided society that is ours. It is therefore not strange that the small fry fat cats who have by mere stroke of luck seen themselves in comfortable seats will present to us such a programme as NEPAD. It is meant to perpetuate their privileged class interests.

The other problem of this idea of African-owned and African-led program lies in the fundamental issue of funding. All the garbage about the Africanness is completely negated by their No. 181 which merits quoting in full: “the various partnerships between Africa and the industrialised countries on the one hand and multi-lateral institutions on the other will be maintained”. The “partnerships” in question include among others: the UN New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s; the African-Europe summit’s Cairo Plan of Action; the World Bank-led Strategic Partnership with Africa; the IMF-led Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers; the Japan-led Tokyo Agenda for Action; the African Growth and Opportunity Act of the USA; and the Economic Commission for Africa-led Global Compact for Africa. The objective will be to rationalise these “partnerships” and to ensure that real benefits flow to the “donors” who put up the money.

But perhaps the most ludicrous aspect of this mammoth illusion relates to its modus operandi. A good lot of ink was sunk into the usual rhetoric of “capacity building”; “a safe African environment”; “empowerment”; “ensuring competitiveness”; “enforcing inalienable rights”; “eradicating female genital mutilation”; “providing education, health care, shelter, and food for all”; etc. Each item is exhaustively described but nothing resembling how they would implement the lofty goals is mentioned. The nearest the document ever goes by way of how they would achieve their aims is found in No. 49 which states inter alia that “to achieve these objectives African leaders will take joint responsibility for . . . strengthening mechanisms for conflict prevention, management, and resolution at regional and continental levels”.

Clearly, those who drew up this farce of an agenda did not have any illusions on the continued presence of conflicts and war. They therefore did not hesitate to include the setting-aside of large sums to beef up the military strength of their respective countries to enable them deal with conflicts. Now considering the fact the armaments industry is one of the most lucrative of all capitalist ventures, one can not fail to see through the evil designs of the “partnership” to lubricate this enviable avenue of amassing ill-gotten wealth.

On the other hand, these leaders being dreamers felt that “it is with in the capacity of the international community to create fair and just conditions in which Africa can participate effectively in the global economy and body politic” (No. 41), unaware, due to their warped ideological inclination, that the profit-oriented system has no room for fair play and justice; that profit-seeking knows no morals. And consequently, the leaders’ conviction that “what is required . . . is bold and imaginative leadership . . . as well as a new global partnership” is pathetically naïve.

To cut a long story short, there is no way that the disadvantaged masses of Africa and indeed of the whole world can be salvaged through any design that is shaped by so-called “leaders” and which design operate along the lines of the present money-dominated system. Democracy and development demand the exclusion of leadership; people must organise and relate to each other as equals if progress is to be made. An Arab proverb states that “there are two people who never get satisfied; the one seeking money and the one looking for knowledge”. And since money is known to be the root of all evil, the money seekers (capitalists who control the means of production and distribution of wealth) will unscrupulously stop at nothing to make their profits. But as knowledge is enlightenment it leads to truth and justice. So, our first step in correcting the ills of human society through truth and justice is to understand the capitalist system and how it can never work to the advantage of the dispossessed masses of Africa and everywhere else.

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