Every African nation that has lived through the brutality of colonial domination has ended up the same way: crippled by widespread deep poverty and in unyielding debt to rich First World capitalists. Colonized nations in other parts of the world suffered similar outcomes. And the defilement of former colonies hasn’t stopped.
The biggest reason all these nations are impoverished today has a name: capitalism.
Defilement of former colonies hasn’t stopped.
Capitalism is the reason.
The world produces some 2,700 calories daily for each of our over 7-billion inhabitants. That’s enough food that no one should be deprived. Yet one out of eight of us is malnourished, and 2.4 billion out of 7 billion live in extreme poverty. One-third of us. Every few seconds a living, breathing person stops being a living, breathing person, either starving to death or dying because of a disease that is easily and inexpensively cured. Capitalism bears an outsized responsibility for these grim statistics. Not capitalists per se, but capitalism.
Capitalism has built-in imperatives that require many to lose so that a few can win. Gross inequality is part and parcel of the capitalist system. Exploitation of the poor and weak is part and parcel of the capitalist system. Capitalism preys on poor people and poor nations.
Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism in the mid-1800s was spot on, and has not been successfully challenged in its essence—although the solution he proposed, state socialism, failed utterly because it did not take into account the inherent nature of people to help themselves and their families first. But his perception that capital must grow stands as one of the most significant revelations in economic history. And this mandatory growth of capital has spelled disaster for all persons and all nations who are not wealthy capitalists themselves. This inequality arises not just between rich capitalist nations and the poor nations that are mostly in the global south, but within rich capitalist nations themselves. Inequality in the United States is at an all-time high because of capitalist imperatives. Ironically, this inequality is so great that it is preventing future capitalist growth because people are not able to buy capitalists’ products.
Exploitation is part and parcel
of the capitalist system.
This outcome is not because capitalists are necessarily evil people, although it sure looks like some are; it is because the very structure of capitalism itself requires results that impoverish and entrap its victims so that the few can become ever more wealthy. Capitalism requires ever-increasing profit, and there are two sure ways to get it: exploit people who have no choice but to work for low pay, or exploit the land on which poor people have lived for millennia by cheating them out of it and carrying off its wealth.
Many nations in sub-Saharan Africa are not “developing”, as they are so often termed. They are failing. They are exploited countries that have been violated repeatedly, by capitalists and their approved tyrants, and are not recovering. They are failing because of the prescriptions of neoliberal capitalist imperialism; they are being systematically exploited and impoverished to serve capitalism.
In virtually every case, neoliberal capitalism has arrived, announced good intentions, and constructed systematic exploitation that puts the country deep in debt and the citizens in deeper poverty. The natives’ millennium-long livelihoods are destroyed, their stolen lands are frequently destroyed, and the people are forced to move to miserable urban slums from which there is no escape.
Or is there?
A number of nations in Latin America have learned what Africans must now learn, that the plans of the capitalist-controlled World Bank, World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund—the evil trio that captures governments, delivers their riches to wealthy capitalists, and impoverishes the rest—must be thrown out, their imposed debts disavowed, their “structural improvements” ignored. All those things make Third World nations weaker and poorer, enslaved to capitalism, with intolerable levels of inequality. African solutions must be found.
The World Bank, World Trade Organization,
and the International Monetary Fund
are the evil trio of exploitation.
The late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, saw how the petroleum mega-corporations were stealing from one of the biggest oil deposits in the world, and paying almost nothing for it. He nationalized the oil companies, and let the mega-petrol people back in when they agreed to a reversal of the 80-20 split in favor of the oil companies. It was still a great deal for mega-petrol, and the Venezuelan people benefited in important ways. Just recently, Venezuela threw the newly appointed American ambassador out of the country because of her statements, which implied that the US was going to tell Venezuela what to do. Sorry. That’s not your job, madam ambassador. That era is over.
Likewise, every African nation must dump every rapacious arrangement the unholy trio comes up with, even if it means losing American and European support entirely. That will result in immediate improvement, and soon enough, capitalist enterprises will come back, hat in hand, to ask about the natural resources of the country. And then Africans can demand real benefit for their own people, if they don’t refuse outright.
Several recent books present the idea that the charity of governments given to African nations has done nothing good for them, and should be discontinued. I resisted this thought, but have come to think it’s probably true, because much of it ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt politicians and almost none of it goes where it was intended. In that case, African nations would in the end benefit if the US and other nations quit awarding foreign aid. At the least, it would end the free ride given to corrupt government officials. NGOs do better at actually helping, but they have their faults too.
Africans are denied the benefit of life-saving drugs, essentially because Big Pharma cares only about big profit, and has no interest in human welfare. They spend twice as much on advertising as on development, lots of it going for things like Viagra and wrinkle cures. A small part of the money spent advertising frivolous things would save the lives of millions who can’t afford their inflated prices.
These companies rake in profits in multiple billions of dollars every year, yet at the same time they kill millions of Africans because, for example, they offered discounted AIDS drugs only when they were forced to, for $1,500, in nations where the average annual income was $500. Even more significantly, they can’t be bothered with providing the inexpensive pharmaceuticals that could save millions of lives every year, solely because there isn’t enough profit in it to suit them. They don’t see the administration of lifesaving drugs as a sacred trust. They don’t care about the diseases and conditions elsewhere that kill someone every three seconds, the ones easily cured, because they are not profitable enough.
Big Pharma has no interest in human welfare;
they only care about big profit.
But what if two or three newly-declared independent African nations established their own company to make these drugs, or improved ones, using the money they saved from dumping the disabling debts the WTO, World Bank, and IMF imposed on them? They could save countless lives for pennies each. If Big-Pharma claims patent violation, which they will, screw ’em. They had their chance and refused because they have no interest in lives, only profits.
All poor countries worldwide should renounce all so-called “free trade” agreements, including the one the US is trying to talk Asian governments into right now. (These talks are secret, so that American citizens don’t complain. Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out the obvious, that if the deal would arouse such opposition, there ought to be no such deal. Obviously, those holding the talks can only be planning an injustice like all the others.) All such agreements create the opposite of free trade. The powerful capitalists require weaker countries to accept subsidized foods, but don’t allow these countries to subsidize their own products. Using money saved by renouncing such agreements, African nations could disallow importation of subsidized crops, invest in their own agriculture—without Monsanto’s patented satanic GMO seeds and expensive unwanted poisons—and restore their economic wealth.
With modest self-investment, these countries could radically improve their health and food production infrastructure. A healthier populace is better able to build a solid structure to support agriculture for home consumption rather than export luxury crops to rich capitalist markets that reliably impoverish them, and in time they could build industries that can compete on the world market, controlled not by foreign capitalists, but by themselves. Since in many areas they start from zero, all progress is significant, even radical. Construction of modern urban water and waste disposal systems using African businesses and labor, for example, would make a profound difference in virtually every African city.