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Western capitalism, as a new global religion.
About this event: African And Arab Regional Conference On Electronic Transaction Security, Digital Signature And PKI
Related to country: Angola


**PART #2 XXX Africans forgotten continent
A worrying aspect of this current fad of globalisation is the lack of historical context and political responsibility in discussing the Third world and especially Africa. We are seen as the "problem continent", "forgotten continent", and "poor cousins of the rich north". These are the dominant imagery of Africa in the West.

Without contextualising the various conflicts on the continent, Africans have popularly become a bunch of hopeless people who cannot do anything for themselves; a continent and a people needing help, charity cases and humanitarian junkies. Yet these countries and the perennial conflicts did not just come out of the blues. What is Somalia, Liberia or Nigeria? These are artificial states created by European colonialism.

They are the result of a previous globalising mission: Globalisation of Colonialism. That was why the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884/85 was convened to rationalise European imperial greed. It was a global attempt by the dominant European powers of that time to settle the Colonial question in Africa, to reduce competition by parceling out exclusive markets and labour reserves for those powers, namely Britain, Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium and Spain.

That is why today we have 54 odd and ugly countries with arbitrary borders that should course nightmare to any sensible Cartographer. Some of the borders are straight lines drawn up by drunken colonialists and their cohorts marooned together in a do-or-die conference in Berlin with different wines competing with the odd assembly of maps, rulers and compasses.

Where straight lines won't do they compromised around principles like natural boundaries (i.e. rivers, mountains and lakes!). There are many anecdotes about the whimsical ways in which European globalising colonialists decided the borders and therefore subsequent history, culture and politics, of the colonial peoples.

Take for instance the Kilimanjaro Mountain (the highest mountain in Africa) and about one million people who live around it. It used to be part of colonial Kenya until a British Monarch who was stuck about what gift to give to a German Kaiser for a birthday celebration decided on a 'cute little mountain in Africa'. And with that the fate of the people was determined.

A decision that has a permanent socio-economic and political consequence for them. For instance, education which had till then been in English had to change to German who were then the Colonial powers in Tanganyika (since 1965 called Tanzania). Thus you cannot talk about the problems of nation building in Africa today without understanding or focusing on the way in which these borders were created for the convenience, greed and vanity of Europe's rulers.

What is new?

We do not see this globalisation as a new thing. There may indeed be a new context. But we have seen globalisation before. We have also gone through New World Orders before.

The order that has now become old that we are supposed to be burying and replacing with a newly declared World order was only declared 50 years ago. It was the result of the balance of power after the defeat of fascism in Europe in 1945, the outcome of genocide in Europe. Again, almost 50 years later (in April 1994) in the throes of another New World order we had genocide in Rwanda.

There is a wide concern that this new globalisation, as in the past, is almost inseparable from Westernisation and Americanisation. The collapse of Eastern Europe has helped to popularise this new orthodoxy that, there is no alternative (TINA) to Western capitalism, as a new global religion.

Tough regime of the market and the sanctity of capitalism are the preferred mantra. In Africa the record of capitalism does not match this myth. While people in Eastern Europe may claim that they are running away from socialism/communism (even though current developments there have tempered earlier capitalist optimism with realism), the majority of African states have never been socialist. Therefore our people cannot be running away from it. If we are running away from anything it is the brutality and mass poverty that continue to dominate our lives our lives under global capitalism.

The majority of our states remained loyal servants of the West and its markets and yet the majority of them cannot show the growth, let alone substantial development that their romance with the capitalist wolf has bought to the majority of their peoples in even the richer countries like Nigeria, Zaire, South Africa, Senegal, Ivory Coast, etc. So this newly received wisdom about the market rings hollow in Africa's ears because the record of capitalism in our countries has neither been democratic or developmental.

However the reality is that the West/America control our economies and have politico-military hegemony over global political economy. Our subordination is supervised and guaranteed under the tight leash of allegedly multilateral institutions (controlled by the West/USA) of which we are technically and theoretically equal members such as the UN. System, the Breton Woods Institutions, World Trade Organisation, etc.

The IMF/WB are in direct control of most of the African States and spread Western economic gospels to states that cannot afford to say no. They have global solutions to all problems regardless of local specificities.

Their solutions are like the ever present quack pharmacists and doctors found in our cities peddling concoctions that can cure 1000 diseases, from ant bites to high blood pressure! So the Structural Adjustment Programmes proposed by these institutions call for deregulation (read devaluation) of currency markets and the monetary system; privatisation of public enterprises; retrenchment of public employees; liberalisation of the economy; cut backs in welfare Programmes and generally a return to an atmosphere of Hobesian state of nature where human beings become predators on fellow human beings in the name of "free competition" and "survival of the fittest".

May 28, 2006 | 2:30 PM Comments  {num} comments

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