[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Review of Looting Africa
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Jul 19 05:19:11 BST 2007
:::The African Channel:::
LOOTING AFRICA -
Book review by Ronald Elly Wanda
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
My journey from London to Durban (on the south coast of South Africa)
that usually takes about 14 hours felt like a short matatu (taxi) ride
from Kaloleni to Kawangware in Nairobi.
Thanks to Elite Transition, the last book by Patrick Bond that I read
during the long-haul flight to the southern fraction of our beautiful
continent. The book, appropriately titled, fast forwarded my existing
knowledge of contemporary South African politics that came in handy
during my active albeit short stay in Durban and later Johannesburg.
So naturally, I was inclined to read his latest book on an interesting
subject “corruption” and the plunder of our continent’s resources. Most
of us with East African derivation, understand if not sympathise with
corruption which is often referred to as the “toa kitu kidogo” and or
“chai” culture. Once upon a time in East Africa, whether in Kampala,
Nairobi or Bujumbura (I’m not sure about Kigali) one had to part with
their hard earned cash just to access public services. I mean the
bribery of officials (government or otherwise) was a common phenomenon.
Optimistically, since the re-birth of the East African Community, things
are slowly but surely improving.
Therefore, Patrick Bond’s latest book “Looting Africa: The economics of
Exploitation”, at a mere 172 Pages serve a useful purpose for any person
seriously interested in understanding our continent’s economical
position in the age of globalisation.
In the book, Bond rightly notes that Africa has been exploited for
centuries and this continues today. He is also absolutely right in his
cynicism of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ‘Africa
Commission’, whilst the Live8 concerts and the Make Poverty History
campaigns, although they had good intentions, he argues that they had no
Looting Africa is similar in writing to Bond’s other books (especially
Elite Transition) and academic papers in tone, style and deliverance.
Patrick Bond, who is professor of Development Economics at the Kwa-Zulu
Natal University in South Africa, elucidates proficiently on what he
sees as the central problems that blight Africa’s economic and political
environment, namely debts and an unbalanced financial relationship with
the advanced world. He goes on to label this relation “Phantom aid”,
because, he argues, it contains unfair trade, distorted investment and
has been the cause of the continent’s brain drain and skill shortage.
Bond quiet rightly goes on to argue that neo- liberal reforms have
stimulated the rise of the exceptionally dominant elites in Africa. In
Kenya, the continuity of the Mois’, the Kenyattas’ the Odingas’ et al is
blatant evidence of this. Whilst in Uganda, the Kaguta clan and his paid
regiment stand out. Overall, Bond sees all these as exemplifying the
‘Looting’ of the continent. It reminds one of the beautiful fruit yet
ugly term: “Coconut”.
Having said all that, there are a number of issues that the professor
raises in the book, but fails to adequately address. For instance how do
we attract Foreign Direct investment? Or how do we prevent Wanainchis’
(Africans) hard work benefiting others? It is now almost common
knowledge that the money leaving Africa is more than what Africa owes
(which according to the UN stands at $300billion). Bond is right when he
argues that the debt, owed by the continent, should be wiped clean. The
problem according to Bond is that those engaged in the serious acts of
corruption, are still in power. And rightly so, if we look at Uganda we
see examples of the mis-handling of the Global Aids Fund by some high
profile individuals, in Kenya the Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing scandals,
those implicated have either been exonerated and are sadly still at the
centre of government.
The research by bond raises another important question, given that there
are over 100,000 African millionaires on the continent, worth more
around $600 billion in total, how poor is Africa? I certainly agree with
him that there needs to be far greater commitment to racking down and
returning illicit capital flight from Africa, most of it stashed in here
in London and Europe. . The book forces the reader to start asking rigid
questions about the moral/ethical practises of the entire western
banking sector. This is because clearly, they are seriously involved in
the wholesome looting of our continent. Another problem that the book
doesn’t address also is the lack of domestic hegemony in Africa. Within
the majority of African political systems, those at the apex (the
patrons) are unable to impose their hegemony and thus depend on periodic
largesse to buy acquiescence.
Whilst Bond’s book points out at a great deal of valuable information
and a compelling critique of Africa’s place in the world, it does not
offer a clear set of alternative. Conclusively, it should be pointed out
that Black Africa is currently experiencing a growth rate that in 2005
was equal to the overall rate of growth that the entire developing world
has experienced since 2000. The grand question is, in spite of some
elements of corruption, are we going to continue letting local
collaborators and foreign agents continue to plunder and enjoy the hard
labours of the mwanainchi?
Ronald Elly Wanda is a political scientist and President of Pan African
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