In Reply to: Re: Yes, I am sensitive about this topic posted by Farmer on December 13, 2007 at 01:58:00:
You wrote: "To give you one example about what puzzles me since ages & may be you have some response to it: Africa happens to be rich in natural resources & many African states have their independence since ages/decades...yet they 'don't get their act together it seems'...there was recently an article, a series in the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, where they posed exactly the same question of why and had actually little answers & where a bit clueless, as smart as the journalists otherwise are...you know what I mean?It's just a bit odd. Take Slovenia of former Yugoslavia, once they got out, that nation just boomed and paced quickly forward..."
The answers about the above are as complex as Africa is diverse--there are many nations and tribes, and so many factors we can't possible cover them all. No one factor can expain everything and any attempt to discuss one factor will risk glossing over other factors and over-simplifying the matter. Still, there definitely are some common threads.
Since you asked my opinion, one big factor, in my understanding, is that the above is due to Neo-colonialism at work today.
To me it's not too different from a gang of kids in the school yard that keep stacking and changing the rules against you when you hang out and try to play with them. I once saw a skit that went something like:
"To play with us you have to have a blue cap. No, your own blue cap won't do, you have to have our blue cap. The cap will cost you $10. You don't have $10? No problem, we'll give you the cap and you can give us your lunch every day for the value of $0.50 -- it will only take you 20 days to pay us. What's in you lunch box? Sandwiches? We don't like sandwiches. We like hotdogs. Your mother doesn't give you hotdogs? No problem, one of our blue-cap boys will sell you hotdogs for $0.25, so if you turn around and give that back to us it'll take you 50 days to repay us. What's this? You didn't know that we only eat hotdogs wrapped in foil? You have got to get foil. While you're at it, get a skewer. You need our kind of skewer to grill it on or we won't eat it. It'll cost you $5, but think of all the money you'll keep on making after you finish paying us....... Oh we're tired of hotdogs now. Haven't you heard? You have got to keep up..... "
The African map as it is today was drawn by Colonialists carving out the continent and creating unnatural boundaries. When nations achieved independance, they immediately joined the club of weaker nations in a game of geopolitics, dominated by much bigger players. The bigger players created the rules, and enticed weak new nations with loans which created perpetual debt. African nations now spend more on repaying banks every year, than they do on themselves. In a sense, African interest payments are keeping Europe and North America wealthy.
When we examine just one nation in Africa--Nigeria, we get a good picture of what has happened in general in Africa:
Nigeria is one of the richest countries in terms of natural resources. Soon after it achieved independance in 1960, there was talk of oil, and experts from richer countries came in to consult them. Besides being weak (corruption) and grappling with their own internal politics and the development of a workable model for running their own country, the Nigerian government had to deal with interference from outsiders who were telling them how to keep up and what to do.
Opportunist consultants eager to cash in, convinced Nigeria to buy (among other things) expensive equipment from them in pursuit of oil. The oil dream never panned out. Within only five years, Nigeria was in serious debt, living far beyond its means, and owing money for useless equipment. Then their currency was devalued, and small fluctuations in exchange rates were disastrous for the economy. Unable to repay even that which they borrowed, the interest piled up and their national debt grew.
In the West we have different standards for ourselves. We get upset when we learn that banks have extended loans too eagerly to parties which cannot pay up. We blame them for the collapse of the economy, when too many people lose their homes. We think it is their responsibility to scrutinize loan applications better. The same rules do not apply to banks lending to African nations:
In any case, Africa is changing -- it's GDP is projected at an average 8% by next year.
One could also argue that Slovenia is in the EU's backyard. It deals with different problems and faces different rules in the game imposed on them by stronger nations.
The way I see it is that this trade-bloc thing has been happening throughout history:
Tea was a big deal. The British wanted tea. China had tea. The self-sufficient Chinese nation had no need for anything from the British however, so the demand was one-sided--the balance of trade was in favor of the Chinese. The Chinese currency was based on silver, but the British had little need for silver. To get the silver to pay for the tea, the British smuggled opium from India into China, selling it in exchange for silver. The Chinese, who had outlawed the opium trade, confiscated 20,000 chests of opium and burned them. The British retaliated by sending warships. The Chinese were militarily weaker and ceded Hong Kong.
(see Trade and Opium)
We can assert all we want that Communism was doomed to fail, etc, but it also failed with a lot of help from outside. Apart from their creating a closed system for themselves, the Western bloc also hemmed them in, created impassable trade obstacles and boycotts, imposed their own rules about currency and exchange of goods, and kept them on edge so they would expend their resources on military spending, etc. A lot of times goods produced by Communist countries were really good and cheap, but the West refused to buy. The cost of keeping Communism intact simply became too high.