All rubber produced in Ivory Coast will be processed before it is destined for exportation, according to new legislation in the country. Last month, Ivorian legislators approved a law providing tax incentives for processing rubber.
The move has been hailed as a bold step towards ensuring that there is some degree of accountability and beneficiation as regards the continent’s natural resources. The law will become operative once it is enacted by the Ivorian president.
This legal reform aims to address the mischief of sluggish industrialization that Africa as a whole grapples with. The extractive industries in Africa – mining, timber, agriculture, and oil exploration/extraction – have done little to ameliorate the dire conditions of existence that the continent battles with as it struggles to extricate itself from the legacies of colonialism (and the attendant neocolonialism).
Africa loses precious sums of money through an inability to process raw materials into finished products, thereby suffering from the vicissitudes of the ever-fluctuating commodity prices. These are funds that can be easily channeled towards the universal provision of public services such as education, health, water and sanitation, housing, good transportation systems, and power.
For Ivory Coast, the move to ensure all rubber is processed before export is a commendable one that addresses long-held concerns about dependence on former colonizers and other advanced capitalist states – both in the West and East – for finished products.
Esmel Essis, the Ivorian Minister In Charge of Promoting Private Investment, expressed the upbeat mood of the country’s lawmakers in approving this law saying, “Through the adoption of this text, we have just given a boost to the promotion of the industrialization of Ivory Coast, the only guarantee of our country’s development”.
He went on to say that the processing of rubber before export is in accordance with pursuing “added value,” and that this will assist Ivory Coast to “build a strong prosperous country where all will benefit from economic growth and fallouts”.
“We want to go beyond the initial processing phase. There are lots of rubber products. There is no reason why Ivory Coast, which is a major producer of this crop, should be outside the entire production chain.”
The processing of Ivorian rubber is expected to lift the country’s fortunes as far as the discourse of ‘industrial growth and development’ is concerned. Ivory Coast is one of the largest producers of rubber in the world – in 2020 the country was ranked the fourth largest rubber producer in the world, as per the country’s Association of Natural Rubber Professionals. Malaysia leads the world in rubber-production; it is abundantly endowed with almost 90% of the world’s rubber trees.
The figures for rubber-production in Ivory Coast place it in its rightful context – the country supplies nearly 80% of the continent’s rubber. It produced almost one million tons of natural rubber last year alone. This easily makes the West-African country the largest producer of rubber in Africa.
These are astronomical figures in terms of extraction, but they pale in comparison with the poverty and inequality in Ivory Coast. This shows how natural resources are often a disingenuous occurrence – the more natural resources an African country is blessed with, the more it is grimly familiar with the ‘natural resources curse’.
The fact that several countries in Africa cannot process their raw materials – only waiting for finished products from Europe, America, China, Japan, South Korea, etc. – is rooted in colonial history where the capitalist base and superstructure were responsible for birthing extractive industries on a global commercial scale to serve elite interests predicated on the hegemony of racial superiority.
With global consumerism/materialism under the dominant bourgeois liberal ideologies (informing free-market economics) rising to dystopic levels, advanced capitalist countries [foreign private capital] do not desire the processing of raw materials on the continent.
But that is unless such processing benefits them under the worn but effective pretext of ‘private investment’ – where profits from the processing are kept by private capital because states outsource natural resources extraction to private companies.
The global demand for rubber will perpetually surge, and it is remiss to wish away these concrete economic contexts.
Trading in commodities has always been a precarious task for African countries/producer countries. The prices for such commodities, which the African people toil for under vicious labor conditions, are set unilaterally and arbitrarily in distant lands – notably the London Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange.
At the whim of market forces (the invisible hand of the free-market), these prices change regularly, with the macroeconomic repercussions on African countries’ being of a devastating nature to people’s welfare.
This laudable law is a welcome development that aligns with Pan-African concerns where questions about Africa’s sovereignty over its own natural resources are elicited. However, it must be done in a way that truly benefits and emancipates the masses.
A keen eye must be kept on the applicability and enforcement of the new law – it must work impartially, although the practical realities of private capital under free enterprise [and all the attendant contradictions] must be kept in mind.
The new law must not serve private capital as is the prevailing norm not only in Africa but across the world – where a small elite have unfettered control over the trade of natural resources and are accountable to none because they are in neoliberal alliances with states.
The new law will shield Ivory Coast from the vagaries of commodity price changes since the country will be trading in finished products. The leadership must be cautious about the mirage of the “trickle-down” effect.
This is a chance to fight neocolonialism, and such a process requires serious political will that inspires high degrees of confidence – it is this dearth of political will that has made African leaders spineless in relation to natural resources extraction and exportation, keeping the continent under the throes of neocolonialism to the detriment of people’s livelihoods and dignity