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CAPE TOWN, South Africa – A new initiative by the world’s economic powers to revitalize Africa has become the hottest topic on the continent.
The Group of Eight most industrialized nations is launching The New Partnership for Africa’s Development, or NEPAD. The initiative has raised the hopes of many Africans but also invites skepticism. Does NEPAD signal a “renaissance” for Africa’s poor or is it merely a tool of the West to tighten its grip on Africa’s natural resources?
The continent is awash with challenges, gripped by AIDS, colonization by communist China, civil wars, corporate raiders, mercenaries, dictators, self-induced famine, Marxism and radical Islam. The post-colonial era clearly has failed all Africans.
The recent peace initiative in Sudan is faltering. Civil war rages in Madagascar and Liberia. Congo seethes with instability. A second genocide in Rwanda is possible. Togo has had three decades of dictatorial rule. Zimbabwe and Cameroon have held some of the most fraudulent elections in modern history.
Many wonder how to turn Africa back towards the prosperity and stability it enjoyed under white colonial rule. Since the 1950s, respect for human rights generally has declined. Foreign aid accounts for 50 percent of Africa’s budget and 75 percent of its infrastructure. Africa comprises 1 percent of world economic output, less than Belgium.
Cyclical drought, increasing water scarcity, urban drift, poor education, matriarchal tribalism, a shortage of high tech workers, massive migration to South Africa and economic inequality are storm clouds on the African horizon which have no quick fix.
According to a report issued by the Institute for Global Dialogue, a branch of the German Social Democracy Party, by the year 2020, Africa as a whole will exist under one of five possible scenarios. These scenarios are conflict and corporate control, unstable markets driven by globalization, a slow and continued slide into decay and anarchy, the breakup of African states into smaller units each struggling for survival, or regional renaissance led by a new visionary leadership of Africans.
A new vision
How can Africa’s problems be addressed?
Some see the unification of Africa into one economic and political block as the answer. The newly formed African Union proposes a united Africa with an African Parliament based in Libya, which ironically doesn’t even have its own parliament.
This African Union would develop a common economic, military and foreign policy. South African President Thabo Mbeki, a key NEPAD proponent, has openly sought to become the “first president of Africa.” The fact that South Africa was rated as the number one country by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa bolsters his chances for such a post.
Mbeki, basking in the glow of the most recent NEPAD conference held in Kananaskis, Canada, told South Africans recently that “Unlike the Berlin Conference [at which European colonial powers carved up Africa more than 100 years ago], the Africans themselves also attended the Kananaskis Conference. In historical terms, it signified the end of the epoch of colonialism and neo-colonialism. At Kananaskis, the peoples of Africa reaffirmed their commitment to take their destiny into their own hands, practically.”
However, any president of the African Union will have to leave his home country for one year – and few African leaders, especially dictators, can afford to be out of their own nations for that long. Egyptian President Mubarak survived an assassination attempt five years ago during an OAU (the now defunct Organization of African Unity, which the AU has replaced) summit.
Not every African leader is enamored with the West, Western handouts or even the legacy of Western linguistics on the African continent. For example, Senegal’s leader Abdoulaye Wade told those gathered at the recent African Union inaugural confab that all leaders from Anglophone states were merely “representatives of the British Commonwealth and Anglican Church.”
True democracy and an African Parliament that can exert influence on a united African currency, continent-wide policy and foreign policy will take quite some time to achieve, a German diplomatic liaison told WorldNetDaily.
“The non-racists and technocrats needed to take the place of Africa’s current groups of egomaniacs, mass-murderers and dictators has thus far not emerged on the scene to make real and radical changes Africa needs to save itself from itself and corrupt Western corporations in the 21st century,” he said.
One of the key aims of NEPAD is that the billions in Western aid be linked to African states based on “good governance” and a willingness to accept International Monetary Fund banking and accounting standards.
About $6 billion will be appropriated to Africa by NEPAD. These funds were offered at the Monterey Conference last year. However, the infrastructure projects required by NEPAD will require a Western cash infusion of $64 billion. Each G8 member state reserves the right under NEPAD to either fund or withhold funds to NEPAD-member states based on their human rights records and IMF-approved accounting procedures. There is no open-ended check for any African regime under NEPAD.
Phil Twyford, the head of Oxfam International believes the G8 is “offering peanuts to Africa and repackaged peanuts at that. They have given us a report that is full of repackaged, recycled old initiatives and good intentions.”
The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference seconded Oxfam’s take on NEPAD, calling the G8’s Africa plan “recycled rhetoric. It offers nothing new. It is a vacuous plan for no action on Africa.”
“There is a popular joke around South Africa equating NEPAD with wearing kneepads,” Karen Jenkins, a South African bank auditor told WorldNetDaily. “We are prostrate before the IMF. Look at what the IMF has done for Argentina and South Korea. Nations like Malaysia who have closed themselves off to IMF and World Bank control have managed to survive even very severe economic downturns, such as the Asian meltdown of 1997.”
South Africa’s Inkatha Freedom Party, led by the Zulu nation, has little faith in NEPAD. The IFP’s national organizer, Albert Mncwango, said to the South African media, “When did Libya last have elections? Look at the manner in which Zimbabwe is being run.”
International philanthropist George Soros dismissed NEPAD as “not being worth the paper it was written on.”
Debt relief is hailed by many as a key to Africa’s future. Led by Irish U2 singer Bono’s Third World debt relief campaign, NEPAD is offering $1 billion in relief.
One debt relief scheme proposed by the IMF, not exclusive to Africa, is to revalue the price of gold held by the central banks in rich member states, transfer that gold to debt-ridden countries, then “buy” the same gold bullion back from the poor states. The change in valuation in the gold by the IMF during the transaction would thus provide the “debt relief.”
Critics of the NEPAD debt relief program protest that the G8 has offered Russia $20 billion to help with disarmament.
“Russia is modernizing its nuclear forces while the West pays for it,” Gregory du Toit, a South African intelligence analyst told WorldNetDaily. “Boris Yeltsin threatened America with nuclear attack over the Serbian crisis. Remember what Yeltsin told Clinton, ‘Don’t forget for one second about what Russia’s nuclear arsenal can do to America.’ The West fears Russia. It does not fear Africa.”
Du Toit said the United States and Europe show empathy for Africa.
“In reality, by destroying the white colonial-era order, the West turned Africa into a series of Somalias unable to stop Western corporate plundering,” he said. “African dictators profit from Africa’s disorder, and they will continue to maintain that disorder.”
Du Toit points out that massive immigration from Africa into Europe is not sitting well with Europeans.
“Nine governments have turned right wing, including Denmark, Hungary, Holland and look at the reaction in France,” he noted. “By improving conditions in Africa, Europeans hope to slow down non-white immigration into Europe. Yet the way African dictators have raped and ruined their own economies through destroying proper fiscal management checks and balances makes a turn-around unlikely. This is why the West, even under NEPAD, is unwilling to fund large scale infrastructure projects.”
Joan Veon, a keen student of NEPAD who will attend the upcoming Rio Plus 10 summit in Johannesburg, told WorldNetDaily, “One of the pillars of NEPAD is sustainable development. It is the merger of capitalism and communism.”
NEPAD and world trade
Since 1999, Africa’s share of global trade has declined from 3.1 percent to 0.7 percent. Agriculture is a source of friction between Africa and the West.
African states have expressed concerns about the U.S. protecting its farming sector and have sought to change sovereign U.S. agricultural policy through the World Trade Organization. They are particularly angry at President Bush’s recent farm subsidy bill which was widely viewed as a “get tough with the European Union” act of muscle flexing.
Disputes over mad cow disease, genetically modified foods and hormones injected into cattle also have caused more than a few clashes. Tariffs on citrus products vary at different times of the year to protect the markets and farmers in the Northern Hemisphere during the Southern Hemisphere’s growing season.
South Africa exports almost three quarters of its citrus crop to the European Union member states. Its wine industry is one of the world’s finest, yet has not reaped economic rewards because of apartheid-era sanctions and inequalities in global trade. The EU ordered South Africa to never again use the terms “port” and “sherry” as well as several other wine types on its exports, by claiming those terms as the “intellectual property” of EU states. Even Australia was ordered by the EU to stop using the name “Chianti” and others.
According to a World Bank report, cotton imports to Africa cost the continent a quarter of a billion dollars per year. In many African states, the losses they experience through trade and the self-protection subsidies of Western farmers are three times greater than the debt relief proposed by the IMF.
U.S. and EU governments, on average, have increased farm subsidies by almost $10 billion since 1992. The Uruguay round of GATT failed in its attempt to help the Third World maximize its own natural resources and limit Western subsidies to its own farming sectors. Agricultural exports coming out of Europe and the U.S. can be sold in Africa and elsewhere for about one third of what it costs to produce them.
Africa’s major exports, coffee, cocoa, tea, gold, oil, diamonds and even uranium (currently being mined in Marxist Congo by North Korean Special Forces for that nation’s burgeoning nuclear program) have failed to bridge the trade gap with the West. Growing high-price crops, like pineapples, for export to the EU leaves the common African with less maize and other staple products.
Some Africans believe NEPAD is missing some of the critical issues.
“The issue of the killing off of 1,300 of South Africa’s 40,000 white Afrikaner-Boer farmers has yet to be put on the NEPAD agricultural agenda,” a spokeswoman for the Transvaal Agricultural Union told WorldNetDaily.
“The Western elites only see what they want to see,” she said. “That is why NEPAD really is a joke.”