Whilst the COVID19 pandemic has caused a global economic crisis, exposing deep and devastating vulnerabilities in the global economic system; it has, nonetheless, further exposed not only the vulnerabilities but the insidious duplicity that underlies African economic systems. The COVID19 crisis has, once again, brought up and further reinforces the inescapable need to raise more fundamental questions about the nature and, more importantly, the ownership of African so-called economies.
While we Africans – many of us – speak, with misplaced pride of course, of “our [African] economies“; we often seem to do so while conveniently ignoring, forgetting or, with a wool of ignorance firmly plastered in our faces, of the historic origins and development of “our” economies. It’s imperative to recall that present day African economies – as part and therefore, like the rest of the governance and administrative structures – are colonial economic structures inherited from the colonial system, complete with their colonial purpose and still maintained today. They are essentially colonial structures, through and through, developed by the colonial system in Africa purposely to serve colonial interests; not African interests and the needs of African people. That’s an undeniable fact!
They’ve never changed in structure and in their primary purpose of both existence and service, even with so-called “African independence“. Even, of course, with nominal political independence with African governors replacing “white” European colonial governors; and acting on behalf and in the interests of their colonial masters and the colonial system. It is what it is; it remains firmly so. But what’s equally undeniably true, is that Africa has never had economic independence precisely because of the nature and structure of its colonial economic systems.
The purpose of the colonial African economic system today, remains the same as it was upon its conception and subsequent development: to serve colonial economic interests using African resources both natural and so-called “human” resources; put otherwise, free labour. That system of economic value extraction and exploitation of both African natural resources and so-called “human” resources – free labour – did not change and has never changed despite the claim of “African independence” – a mere wool pulled on African faces while the plunder goes on.
In fact, one would contend that the main reason the European colonialists largely conceded to token political independence to Africans agitating for self-rule (some people, with valid reasons, call it misrule) was after they had ensured that the economic system remained intact. That its supply-structure of necessary raw materials to Europe for industrial purposes remained uninterrupted and continued to serve their economic and political interests seamlessly. They got their African replacements – agents – to sign binding economic treaties with severe repercussions of noncompliance. They also ensured that whoever, African or not, attempted to interrupt the system was dealt with decisively and made to serve as an example to anyone who might dare or dream of interrupting it again. This remains largely the same modus operandi although with changes in the dynamics of operations.
The main reason African economies are not serving and benefiting Africans is because they aren’t African economies; they were not initially and still are not designed with the purpose to serve African interests and African people. They were designed and developed by the colonial system to serve colonial interests and needs. That remains the central purpose: serving foreign interests and needs using African natural resources as well as “human” resources – free labour.
The COVID19 pandemic and the economic crisis it has thus caused globally; but the focus here is Africa, should make many of us Africans, particularly African goverments and policymakers, ask some serious questions that must be truthfully answered whilst crafting out a recovery plan from COVID19 related economic devastation.
- In whose hands (control) are African economies?
- How much of African economies – sector by sector – is actually African or owned by Africans?
- How do African economies benefit Africans?
- What role do multilateral development and international financial institutions play in maintaining African economies in the colonial system and purpose?
- How can and should African economies be redesigned to ensure they serve Africa, African interests and African people?
- What can and should be done to ensure that a majority of Africans have a fair share – ownership – in African economies and not merely expendable cogs in a foreign economic machine, operated by a few token Africans – agents to foreign interests – with a colonial bourgeois attitude, who are subsequently handsomely rewarded for their sell-out roles?
The economic crisis caused by the COVID19 pandemic should be used as an opportunity to rethink, redesign, restructure the prevailing African economic system – which is foreign owned and serves foreign interests more than it serves and ever served Africa and Africans and their interests – to ensure that it functions and serves to benefit Africa and Africans.