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(en) Africa: The political significance of NEPAD by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 11 Sep 2003 12:39:45 +0200 (CEST)

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The Political Significance of NEPAD: a homegrown recipe for neoliberalism
Think Africa-wide - but organise locally Lucien van der Walt
(Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation, South Africa)
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
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


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 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 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


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 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
Mobutu Sese Seko, 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 teh 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 trials!


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


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.



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