retour article original
par Dan GLAZEBROOK
Africa’s classic depiction in the mainstream media, as a giant basketcase full of endless war, famine and helpless children creates an illusion of a continent utterly dependent on Western handouts. In fact, the precise opposite is true –it is the West that is reliant on African handouts. These handouts come in many and varied forms. They include illicit flows of resources, the profits of which invariably find their way into the West’s banking sector via strings of tax havens (as thoroughly documented in Nicholas Shaxson’s Poisoned Wells). Another is the mechanism of debt-extortion whereby banks lend money to military rulers (often helped to power by Western governments, such as the Congo’s former President Mobutu), who then keep the money for themselves (often in a private account with the lending bank), leaving the country paying exorbitant interest on an exponentially growing debt. Recent research by Leonce Ndikumana and James K Boyce found that up to 80 % in every borrowed dollar fled the borrower nation in "capital flight" within a year, never having been invested in the country at all ; whilst meanwhile $20 billion per year is drained from Africa in "debt servicing" on these, essentially fraudulent, "loans".
Another form of handout would be through the looting of minerals. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo are ravaged by armed militias who steal the country’s resources and sell them at sub-market prices to Western companies, with most of these militias run by neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi who are in turn sponsored by the West, as regularly highlighted in UN reports. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are the pitifully low prices paid both for African raw materials and for the labour that mines, grows or picks them, which effectively amount to an African subsidy for Western living standards and corporate profits.
This is the role for which Africa has been ascribed by the masters of the Western capitalist economy : a supplier of cheap resources and cheap labour. And keeping this labour, and these resources, cheap depends primarily on one thing : ensuring that Africa remains underdeveloped and impoverished. If it were to become more prosperous, wages would rise ; if it were to become more technologically developed, it would be able to add value to its raw materials through the manufacturing process before exporting them, forcing up the prices paid. Meanwhile, extracting stolen oil and minerals depends on keeping African states weak and divided. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example –whose mines produce tens of billions of mineral resources each year– were only, in one recent financial year, able to collect a paltry $32 million in tax revenues from mining due to the proxy war waged against that country by Western-backed militias.