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(en) SA, Zabalaza #5 - The Political Significance of NEPAD: a Homegrown Recipe for Neo-Liberalism Think Africa-wide - but organise locally

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 3 Jun 2004 07:30:19 +0200 (CEST)

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The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), adopted by the
African Union in Abuja, Nigeria, in October 2001, is nothing more and
nothing less than a neo-liberal plan by Africa's elite to join with multi-
national corporations, the IMF and World Bank to plunder Africa's labour
force and resources. It is a consolidation of a range of a neo-liberal shifts
by Africa's motley crew of ruling dictators, military chiefs, and capitalists.
ONE GAME - And it signifies the new strategic goal of these elites:
accommodation with global capitalism. Gone are the days when African
ruling classes at least struggled - under a thick haze of revolutionary
cant - to develop their own rival capitalisms.

There is one game in town - global capitalism dominated by the advanced
industrial countries and corporations - and Africa's local bosses want in.

Presented as participatory and demo-
cratic in inception and in intent, this docu-
ment was drawn up by "leaders" whose
actions are undemocratic in practice, and
anti-working class through and through.
Drawn up by South Africa's Thabo Mbeki,
champion of the GEAR strategy at home,
with the help of Algeria's dictator,
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and of Nigeria's
strongman, Olusegun Obasanjo, NEPAD
has been endorsed by almost all African
governments. No ordinary people, no
trade unions, no community structures, no
popular movements were involved.

Like all strategies of the ruling classes,
NEPAD dresses itself in the clothes of car-
ing, and makes kindly nods in the direction
of the concerns of the masses of Africa's
workers and peasants, the most desper-
ately poor people in the world. It promises
dramatic improvements in living conditions
and employment. The issue, however, is
how these aims are to be achieved.
But when we examine the methods
through which NEPAD intends to work its
magic, it becomes clear that the masses
have little to gain but more chains.

African governments, according to
NEPAD, will become more democratic.
No clear mechanisms are established to
ensure that this is the case. The reason is
simple: enforcing basic democratic rights
in Africa would mean reviewing and
replacing practically every government in
Africa. With less than five exceptions,
Africa's governments are dictatorships,
whether this fact is proclaimed openly and
proudly or quietly enforced through manip-
ulating elections and jailing opponents.

In any case, the rhetoric of "democra
cy" is subordinated to NEPAD's primary
objective: attracting foreign capital into
Africa so that local and foreign elites can
jointly enjoy a tasty meal of cheap labou
and captive markets.
Section 166 of NEPAD is quite explici
on this score: African governments mus
create a sound and conducive environ
ment for private sector activities, promote
foreign direct investment, trade, and
exports, and local business must be fos
To develop local infrastructure, such as
roads and electricity, the same recipe is
proposed: according to Section 103, there
must be a drive to "increase financial
investments in infrastructure by lowering
risks facing p r i v a t e investors,
especially in the area of policy and regu-
latory frameworks."

Privatisation is the name of this game: there must be "policy
and legislative frameworks to encourage competition" and
policies aimed at "cross-border interaction and market enlarge-
ment" (section 106). Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are
singled out as "a promising vehicle for attracting private investors"
allowing the State to cut spending." In section 115 we learn that
there must also be PPPs and "concessions" in the ports
roads, railways and maritime transporta tion.
The PPPs will be at the core of the
alliance proposed between Western capi
tal and the elites who run the local States
But so too will private African companies
the "domestic entreprenuers" which
NEPAD stresses as key to "development."

For NEPAD's champions, private
investment is the miracle cure for all ills
In the interests of the working class and
poor, the flow of profit-seeking money into
Africa must accelerate. To meet its tar-
gets, NEPAD will require US$64 billion a
year (section 147).
Part of this money will come from
domestic savings, part from tougher tax
laws, but the "bulk of the needed
resources will have to be obtained from
outside the continent." In part this will be
done through trying to get the African debt
reduced, with attention also being paid to
"private capital flows" and "private sector
investments by both domestic and foreign
investors." This will be topped up with
additional loans from the IMF and World
Bank.To attract private money, Africa must
become an investor-friendly destination,
with a proper "security of property rights,
regulatory framework and markets." "Private
enterprise must be supported" and "governments
should remove constraints to business activity."
This includes attracting big money into mines
(section 160), and factories (Section 161), plus
"trade liberalisation" and (corporate)
tax cuts (Section 169).

NEPAD is equally concerned with promoting the
fortunes of Africa's capitalists. The
document repeatedly stresses the
need to "negotiate measures and
agreements to facilitate market access
for African products to the world market"
(Sections 169, 170) in order to "admit
goods into markets of the developed coun-
tries through bilateral initiatives, and to
negotiate more equitable terms of trade for
African countries within the WTO multilat-
eral framework" (Section 188).

In NEPAD there is a straightforward
assumption: capitalism is good, and bene-
fits everybody. Therefore privatisation, the
"free" market, free trade and so on are to
be welcomed.
The problem with this view is equally
simple: it is capitalism that is to blame for
the main problems faced by working class
and poor people.
What was colonialism but capitalism
backed up with Maxim guns? What was
the postcolonial period from the 1950s to
the 1990s but a drive by African capitalists
to get rich quick whilst beating down the
complaints of the ordinary workers and
peasants? As Mo-bu-tu Se-se Se-ko, former
"king" Of Zaire, said of his regime:
"Everything is for sale in ... our country.
And in this traffic, ... any slice of public
power is a veritable exchange instrument,
convertible into illicit acquisition of money
or other goods."
To now see in the capitalist system in
its modern, most naked, most cynical and
greedy form, neo-liberalism, the ordinary
African's salvation, is absurd. The illness,
in NEPAD's diagnosis, is actually the cure.
A remarkable medicine this!
This confusion is not stupidity howev-
er. It is a mystification of the role of capi-
talism, and of the African ruling classes, in
particular. No man can easily see himself
as the problem. Neither can a social
class. We could not expect these strong-
men and money grabbers to be honest
judges, juries and executioners in their
own trials!

Clearly, the African elites have made
peace with their older brothers in the
The radical nationalists of the 1950s
and 1960s, men of the ilk of Nkrumah and
Kuanda, men who hated colonialism (and
loved capitalism), are gone from the stage.
The old nationalists played, at least, a
small role in challenging colonialism, and
in shaking the old Empires. They turned
on their own people soon enough, sure
enough, but they did play - for at least a
time - a small role in the global struggles
for emancipation.
The NEPAD generation are more cyni-
cal men of more pathetic stature. Unlike
their predecessors who favoured State
capitalism, the NEPAD generation do not
adopt neo-liberalism and Structural
Adjustment unwillingly - they embrace it
and proclaim it an "African Renaissance."
Like the slave traders of old West Africa,
they parade their countries and popula-
tions on the world market.

Two things could happen at this point:
foreign capital will buy into NEPAD, or it
won't. In either case, the strategic impli-
cations for the working class are clear.
* Be practical: what can we do NOW?
We can fight NEPAD and the African elites
through local actions.

* To intensify local struggles against pri-
vatisation, cut-offs and evictions is the
best way you can take on NEPAD.
NEPAD is the elites battle plan, but the
war wages on many fronts: the army of
labour and the poor must fight where it
meets the enemy. And the immediate
enemy is at home.

* It is important tobegin to coordinateour
struggles across the borders, just as our
rulers do, and to recognise the common
basis of our different struggles against pri-
vatisation, neo-liberalism and authoritarian
States. A common popular solidarity must
be built, brick by brick.

* This means practical actions - support-
ing political prisoners in neighbouring
countries, supporting strikers and getting
anarchist and radical literature into more

* The old illusions in the African elites
must be done away with once and for all.
If it was once at least understandable - but
mistaken- to be taken in by a Nkrumah, it
would be ridiculous to be gulled by an
Obasanjo, a Mugabe or an Mbeki. Now,
we have a golden opportunity to expose
these thugs: link the daily concerns of the
masses with the greed and brutality of
their rulers.

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