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Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 08:33:02 -0400
Message-Id: <199908191233.IAA02591@lists.tao.ca>
From: Art McGee <amcgee@igc.org>
Reply-To: editors@tbwt.com
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Cash Strapped African Leaders Beg To Be Re-Colonized
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Cash Strapped African Leaders Beg To Be Re-Colonized

By Ron Daniels, The Black World Today,
1 August 1999

As I was channel surfing on the television recently, I caught a glimpse of a high level official from the Republic of Tanzania in East Africa extolling the virtues of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (H.R. 434) now being considered by the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress. It struck me as ironic that Tanzania, a nation which under leadership of the venerable Julius K. Nyerere, was a prime proponent of Uhuru Ny Ujama, Freedom and Socialism. It was Nyerere who constantly exhorted Africans to uphold and live by the values of self-help, self-reliance, and self-determination, to organize the societies and economies in the post-colonial era in a way that would maximize benefits to the masses of African people while lessening Africa's dependence on Europe and America. Now I was witnessing an official from the nation which he led as its President appealing to the Congress of the United States to pass a bill that most progressive African American leaders fear would lead to the economic re-colonization of Africa. Nelson Mandela is among the few African leaders who has had the courage to call this bill "unacceptable."

How ironic, tragic even, that as we prepare to enter a new century and millennium Africa, the motherland, is so afflicted by poverty, underdevelopment, hunger, disease, corruption and debt that African leaders, out of desperation and expediency, are in effect begging to be re-colonized, How ironic that the continent whose historical underdevelopment under slavery and colonialism, whose vast human and material resources contributed mightily to the enrichment and development of Europe and America must now turn to the former slaver-masters, and colonizers for a "bail-out" which will strengthen the stranglehold of Europe and America over the human and material resources of Africa well into the 21" century.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which was the "gift" which Clinton came bearing during his highly ballyhooed presidential visit to Africa last year, is a product of the collapse of bi-polar competition in the post Cold War era where countries in the developing world have far less leverage in dealing with the U.S. because of the demise of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc of communist/socialist nations. The U.S. is now the sole superpower and what it has to offer to the world, particularly the so called Third World, is its own capitalist free market model of economic development; a model which is designed to compel nations that receive U.S. aid and trade to accept "structural adjustments" that make it easier for American multinational corporations to penetrate and benefit from their economies. The will of the U.S. is often carried out through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which imposes conditions on nations conducive to promoting "foreign investment." Already racked by foreign debt and highly dependent on the western industrialized nations in the post Cold War era, many countries in the Third World feel they have no alternative but to accept aid from Europe and America on their terms or starve.

Though the Congressional Black Caucus is split on the issue of support of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, with the majority favoring the bill, fortunately a courageous minority within the caucus led by members like Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. have formulated and introduced an alternative bill, H.R. 772, the Human Rights, Opportunity, Partnership and Empowerment for Africa Act (HOPE), which would be far more conducive to Africa's development. A comparative summary of the two bills prepared by Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch says that "the African Growth and Opportunity Act adopts the NAFTA formula for Africa: giving foreign corporations broad new rights that will increase their capacity to profit from control of African resources, while doing nothing to ensure that benefits actually accrue to the African nations and people," In contrast Global Watch suggests that HOPE "was conceived to address the real needs and concerns of sub-Saharan African nations It adopts a holistic approach to the elements essential to ensuring a mutually successful U.S.- sub-Sahara Africa economic policy, including business facilitation, debt relief, aid and AIDS prevention and treatment."

While this is probably an overgenerous assessment of the positive impact on Africa, at least HOPE was drafted by African American congressional, religious and civic leaders and liberal-progressive allies with a more critical eye towards promoting and protecting the interests of African nations. For example, the Growth Act includes no provisions for debt relief, assistance in the form of foreign aid grants or allocations to assist Africa to cope with the AIDS epidemic. The bill provisions for labor and environmental rights are also weak to non-existent.

The current debate raging in Congress over what approach should be taken to assist Africa's development is critical. The confusion and split among members of the Congressional Black Caucus clearly suggests the need for a clear progressive economic development paradigm to guide the formulation of policies, which will affect Africa. Without such a vision and paradigm, African American policy makers wittingly or unwittingly will fall into the trap of promoting policies which will lead to the economic re-colonization of Africa; policies which our brothers and sisters on the continent may fall prey to simply because they feel they have no other viable alternatives.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Black World Today

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