Unequal trade and investment relationships are nothing new for Africa, although beginning in 2005 the world’s attention was drawn to Africa’s plight as never before. However, in contrast to the neo-orthodox strategy implied by Gordon Brown, Bono, Bob Geldoff and other mainstream campaigners, Africa’s deepening integration into the world economy has typically generated not wealth but the outflow of wealth. There is new evidence available to demonstrate this conclusively, just as the current fusion of neoliberalism and neoconservatism consolidates.
In fact, the deeper global power relations that keep Africa down (and, simultaneously, African elites shored up) should have been obvious to the world during 2005. It was a year in which numerous events were lined up to ostensibly help liberate Africa from poverty and powerlessness, to provide relief from crushing debt loads, to double aid and to establish a ‘development round’ of trade:
The mobilization of NGO-driven citizens campaigns like Britain’s Make Poverty History and the Johannesburg-based Global Call to Action Against Poverty (throughout 2005);
Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa (February);
The main creditor countries’ debt relief proposal (June);
A tour of Africa by the new World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz (June);
The G8 Gleneagles debt and aid commitments (July);
The Live 8 consciouness-raising concerts (July);
These all revealed global-elite hypocrisy and power relations which remained impervious to advocacy, solidarity and democratization. At best, partial critiques of imperial power emerged amidst the cacophony of all-white rock concerts and political grandstanding. At worst, polite public discourse tactfully avoided capital’s blustering violence, from Nigeria’s oil-soaked Delta to northeastern Congo’s gold mines to Botswana’s diamond finds to Sudan’s killing fields. Most of the London charity NGO strategies ensured that core issue areas – debt, aid, trade and investment – would be addressed in only the most superficial ways. The 2005 events also revealed the limits of celebrity-chasing tactics aimed at intra-elite persuasion rather than pressure. Tragically, the actual conditions faced by most people on the continent continued to deteriorate.