The Neo-liberal Scramble for AfricaBy: Ben Uugwanga
MARK Dawe (President of the Chamber of Mines) was quoted in The Namibian newspaper last week stating that Government’s blanket issuing of ownership of most minerals and metals to the state-owned Epangelo Mining Company will reduce exploration in Namibia in the short term and will shrink or eliminate the mining industry in the long term.
The above statement by Dawe is typical rhetoric from free-market evangelists who would like to maintain the current status quo for the benefit of the capitalists only. In essence it should be noted that the world is inter-dependent and that the move by the Namibian government to own strategic resources is a progressive direction towards a new paradigm and is driven by the need to ensure that the Namibian state, on behalf of the Namibian people, control, own and manage strategic resources in the resolve to address poverty and inequalities.
This paradigm shift is crucial and all African governments should emulate it to get rid of, among others, the exploitation of African wealth without the actual benefits. Wealth during colonial times benefited the capitalists and their home economies while leaving the indigenous people who own the wealth extremely impoverished. With independence western jurisprudence failed to pay reparation and secure the ownership of the plundered wealth to its rightful owners.
This underlines the fact that neo-liberal capitalism has had its time and it has only itself to blame for failing the world’s poor. Even to this end with the amount of innovation at hand the gap between the rich and the poor has widened greatly under neo-liberal capitalism as 10 per cent own and control 90 per cent of the global wealth. In addition the collapse of the world economic system to date has proven that private banks in cohorts with capitalist institutions have failed the world immensely when much of the government bail-outs extended to them were paid out as benefits in millions of US dollars to executives who have failed in their duty to resuscitate a collapsing order.
The view that the free market economy is sacrosanct and perfect has been proven to have critical flaws. Capitalism is failing the world and is responsible for asymmetrical development, poverty, exploitation of the Third World without offering reparation was in the case of the Marshall Plan which was extended to war-ravaged Europe by the United States of America after World War II. The argument that holds water thus far is that the wealth of individual countries should benefit them and not be exploited to benefit metropolitan economies which control the marketing, pricing and ownership of resource for their own benefit.
As such neo-liberal capitalism should not be allowed to continue swallowing up the poor and reduce them to being beggars at the rich man’s table. After all, the wealth in a country belongs to all and government has the moral right and obligation to argue for its control and ownership by the state in order to address socio-economic developmental issues through a welfare-oriented system.
This opinion piece does not call for the wholesale removal of capitalism. However, it challenges the greed, hypocrisy and the moral emptiness of the system. There are positive aspects brought about by the neo-liberal agenda such as work ethics, the right to obtain value for money, the promotion of innovation which the public-led institutions can borrow to beef up their efficacy.
There is nothing wrong with individuals having the right to run own businesses, provided these businesses pay tax and do not stifle innovation or promote class inequalities. However, a balance should be found in empowering people economically through self-empowerment entrepreneurial ventures that do not compromise the moral fibre and the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.
Other lessons neo-liberal capitalism has provided are the respect for human rights. But these rights have to be accompanied by the guaranteeing of economic rights for the poor. Neo-liberalism should be hailed for the promotion of transparency, meritocracy, empowerment, accountability and good governance. In comparison, other systems such as socialism have, in practice, proven to be inadequate in these positive aspects of the neo-liberal agenda.
Since the whole is greater than its parts the world needs a new architectural order that does away with the deception provided by a western cultural, economic and political megalomania. Interest groups sponsored by the neo-liberal ideology must be shamed and exposed for what they are as in most cases they are hypocrites when fighting for equity, ecological self-sustainability, human development and spiritual progress.
The current global financial arrangements deliberately favour the western hegemony which draws benefits through the purchase and sale of commodities on the world market. The world needs to create a new functional system able to provide for all in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
In this case a global front of lobbyists and change activists should enter the policy-making arena in a united front with the developing world to advance the interests of the marginalised and pauperised. At the same time policy makers, technocrats and agenda setters in Africa and the Third World should have their voices heard at local, national, regional and global fora.
* Ben Uugwanga is a community activist with a keen interest in international relations.