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(en) ILS* Bulletin #1 (February 2004) - South Africa, NEPAD: a homegrown recipe for neoliberalism

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 24 Mar 2004 11:26:32 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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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 join with multi-national corporations, the IMF and
World Bank to plunder Africa's labourn 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.
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: the global capitalism dominated by the
advanced industrial countries and corporations. And Africa's local
bosses want in.


Presented as participatory and democratic in inception and in
intent, this document 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 neo-liberal] GEAR strategy at home, with the help of Algeria's
dictator, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and of Nigeria's strongman,
Olusegun Obasanjo, NEPAD has been endorsed 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 caring, and makes kindly nods in the direction of the
concerns of the masses of Africa's workers and peasants, the most
desperately 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
manipulating elections and jailing opponents.


In any case, the rhetoric of "democracy" 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 labour and captive markets.

Section 166 of NEPAD is quite explicit on this score: African
governments must create a sound and conducive environment for
private sector activities, promote foreign direct investment, trade,
and exports, and local business must be fostered.

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 private investors, especially in the area of
policy and regulatory 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 enlargement"
(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 PPPs and "concessions" in the ports, roads, railways and
maritime transportation.

The PPPs will be at the core of the alliance proposed between
Western capiotal and the elites who run the local States. But so
too will private African companies, the "domestic enrtreprenuers"
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
targets, 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 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 countries through
bilateral initiatives, and to negotiate more equitable terms of trade
for African countries within the WTO multilateral framework"
(Section 188)..


In NEPAD there is a straightforward assumption: capitalism is
good, and benefits 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

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

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, however: It is a mystification of the
role of capitalism, 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 strongmen and money
grabbers to be honest judges, juries and executioners in their own


Clearly, the African elites have made peace with their older
brothers in the West.

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 cynical men of more pathetic
stature. Unlike tehir 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 populations 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 implications 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 privatisation, 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 to begin to coordinate our struggles across the
borders, just as our rulers do, and to recognise the common basis
of our different struggles against privatisation, neo-liberalism and
authoritarian States. A common popular solidarity must be built,
brick by brick.
* This means practical actions - supporting political prisoners in
neighbouring countries, supporting strikers and getting anarchist
and radical literature into more countries.
* 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.

By Lucien van der Walt (Zabalaza Anarchist Communist
Federation, South Africa)

Copied from ILS-SIL http://www.ils-sil.org - International
Libertarian Solidarity - Anarchist federation

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