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The Second Scramble
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
While you were sleeping, Africa, your Africa, passed through what
will tomorrow be yet another major change in its characteristic.
Laurent Kabila is dead. And with that, comes to an end, the beginning
of a new era in Africa. Congo, in more ways than one, is the most
wonderful country in Africa. No other country typifies the travails
of a continent as Congo does. King Leopold II of Belgium, in 1876
invited explorers to Brussels to discuss Africa. He had his eyes on
Congo. He told the explorers that "to open to civilization the only
part of the globe which it has not yet penetrated, to pierce the
darkness which hangs over entire peoples, is, I dare say, a crusade
worthy of this century of progress." In 1884, at the Berlin West
African Conference where European powers shared Africa, in what is
now known as the Scramble for Africa, King Leopold II claimed Congo
as his personal property.
the political arena, Congo has not fared any better either. Its
The Political & Spiritual Purpose of the
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The rise and fall of Mobutu Sese Seko mirrored the story of the Cold
War politics the West played in Africa. Mobutu's role as an ally of
the West during that era excused him from establishing genuine
democracy. It also provided him with the license to be corrupt.
Kenya, Malawi, and Cameroon were some of the African countries that
enjoyed the same model of development and privileges. At the end of
the Cold War, the West abandoned the old policy of appeasing depots
in Africa for a new one.
The old policy of supporting and maintaining kleptocrats like Zaire's
a concerted effort, the US launched an ambitious project of
stumping into Africa and taking its own share of the continent. In
1996, Ron Brown, the then Commerce Secretary, told business groups in Ghana that, "from now on, the US is not going to give way on African
markets to the old colonial powers." The Commerce department described Africa as the "last frontier for American businesses." The
rush to Africa is not unconnected to what Callisto Madavo, the World bank's Vice President for Africa described as Africa's favorable investment returns rate. According to Madavo, while the worldwide rate of investment returns stood at 16-18%, Africa provided 25-30%.
Not even South Africa, Africa's only acting imperialist power is
spared from the foreign invasion. Telkom, South Africa's state owned
Phone Company recently sold 30% of its stake to Texas-based SBC
Communications Inc. and Telekom Malaysia Berhad. The deal was worth
$1.26 billion. In a 1998 bid for African satellite project, out of
the 12 bidders, four were from the US- Intelsat, Hughes Space and
Communications Intl., African Continental Telecommunications Ltd. and
Comsat RSI. The rest were European, Asian companies and a South
Madeleine Albright described the US policy towards Africa as that
of "promoting self-help through capitalism". In Clinton's
administration's Africa Growth and Development Bill, African
countries were granted duty-free access to US market on the condition
that African governments drop restrictions to US imports and private
investments. It also required a drastic reduction on government
involvement in economic activities and the total dismantling of the
state own economic structure. The usually dismissed results of this
policy are social services cuts, ecological damage and the
destruction of local industrials. They are usually dismissed as short-
term pain. The so-called long-term goals have nothing to do with
humans as economic indicators soon become the measure of society's
In Nigeria, the poor performance of the multinational oil companies
in the Niger delta area presents a clear picture of the trend to
come. While in East Africa, the mining companies are instigating
Congo's neighbors to plunge into Congo war, in Nigeria, the oil
companies are providing equipment and tactical support for Nigerian
forces occupying the Niger Delta. These forces and their
collaborators use terror to crush people's resistance as we witnessed
in the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa. The constant flow of oil is more
important than human rights, human capital and human development.
Nothing would make the West reconsider their search for profit as
against the dignity of man. Not even the advent of Sani Abacha and
his lack of political ethics could persuade the West to remember the
very foundation under which their own society was built on.
To many Africans, these policy initiatives and foreign investments
are obviously noble goals geared toward lifting Africa from squalor.
It does not matter if all that is happening is the creating of an
environment where the West can buy from Africa at cheaper rates and
sell to Africa manufactured goods and services as costlier rates.
Many would argue that going by the track record of African countries
in corrupt practices and conflict precipitation, no stringent measure
would be too much for the leaders to bear. In some instances, when
the World Bank and IMF had insisted in having their expert in the
Finance Ministries and Central banks of African nations as conditions
for loans and debt rescheduling, African elite hailed such moves as
desirable if not indispensable.
Africa has no strategic response to the storm of globalization. Even
though, like El Nino, globalization, while causing rain in those
parts of the Western world that are favored by trade, financial flow,
exchange of technology and movement of people, in Africa, it is
causing severe drought. The World Bank promises for unparalleled
opportunity, high living standard, greater growth and an integrated
world market are not happening. What is happening is the
marginalization and exploitation of Africa in the new world economy.
The worldview that has taken hold seems to suggest the end of
ideology, the end of nationalism, the end of thought and the end of
history. But that is far from the truth.
Currently, more than half of Africa's 500 million people live on less
than $1 dollar a day. African governments are forced to cut back
budgetary allocation in Health, Education and services in order to
service high external debts. According to Jubilee 200, an
international Debt-relief crusader, Africa's debt stands at $230
billion. It cost the continent $15.2 to service this debt each year.
Meanwhile, none of the countries that have adopted and followed the
IMF/World bank formula has succeeded in cutting their poverty level
in any significant way. This lack of dividend in democracy and
economic liberalization leads to political disenchantment, which
ultimately leads to failure. In the meantime, globalization marches
on with great rapidity. Just like the speed with which Africa was
shared in 1880s. African values and systems crumble as the dominant
American worldview of MTV, Macintosh and McDonnell's take control.