Africa is still mired in contemporary economic challenges which have resulted in citizens trusting their governments less. But when factoring in Africa’s modern history, which is predicated on imperialism, it becomes apparent that the interference of the global superpowers keeps African countries stagnant. Compounded with the complicity of African leaders who agree to let this influence traverse the continent in the hope that economic problems will disappear. The truth of the matter is that Africa does not need economic advice and directions from countries in the global north, or even in the global east (mostly China).
The Pan-African, Revolutionary Ideology
African countries share a common history that is rooted in colonialism. They share liberation struggle ideologies. These liberation struggle ideologies were shaped by Marxist-Leninist principles. African countries were acquainted well with socialist politics. The Pan-African ideology that dominated the continent resulted in colonialism coming to an end. The common enemies were the global colonial powers. And to fight colonialism, revolutionary armies across the whole continent had to take up arms.
This epoch produced great African thinkers/revolutionaries – Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon, Ahmed Toure, Julius Nyerere, Amilcar Cabral, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Gaddafi, Steve Biko, Patrice Lumumba, and more – who were determined to break off Africa’s economic and social links with the colonizers and their global financialized capital. They led their countries to independence, but the post-independence era has seen Africans going through a myriad of problems.
After independence, the newfound freedom that Africans had was diluted with the alluring lifestyles of the global north and the concomitant capitalist individualism. Africans desired more to replicate the modern, urban success as it is in the global north countries (which were the former colonizers). Without fully understanding the complexities of those countries as to how they got there and how they had been built on colonial fortunes. The strong ideologies of the liberation struggle began to wane as the owners of global capital refused to let their grip off Africa. In protecting the interests of global capital in Africa, Western countries kept their presence in Africa firm. As seen by the overarching influence of the gatekeepers of global capital, which are the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The Destruction Caused by Neoliberalism in Africa
These institutions imposed on Africa unpopular economic actions under the veil of liberal interventionism. The structural adjustment programs laden with neoliberal austerity were unleashed on African countries in the 1980s and 90s. Government spending was cut in various sectors of economies. African governments shifted from a people-centered way of running the economies to that of assuaging the West. African countries were saddled with unpayable debts by these institutions. And these debts continue to haunt African countries today.
In essence, neoliberalism made its inroads in Africa with the supposed liberal adjustment programs. Time and again, these institutions keep feeding Africa with endless economic advice and directives that speak more of a Eurocentric world order than genuinely alleviating Africa’s problems. The gospel about “ease of doing business and investor-friendly policies” is made to court foreign capital to Africa so that business is done at the lowest costs. Without regard to the welfare of Africans in light of the provision of fundamental social services.
The neoliberal path pursued by most African leaders to date has seriously weakened the ideologies of the liberation struggle. The rhetoric of the revolutionary struggles is now used cosmetically – for the reasons that benefit the elite. Governments in Africa seem consumed with courting “foreign investors” in the vain hope that there will be a trickle-down effect of jobs and better welfare in their economies. Which is far from the truth. The belief by African leaders that free-market economics solve problems is not organic, but one that is pushed to them by global capital. This means governments now collude with global capital from America, Europe, China, and Russia to enjoy the [private] profits too.
Africa has become a continent that copies everything and waits for ideas to be manufactured by “others”. And these are the notions being pushed in the global north and east – that Africa is regressive and lacks its intrinsic innovation regarding how problems are solved. The copying of lifestyles in the global north has created an Africa riddled with individualism and ferocious consumerism/commodity fetishism. Individual material success is viewed as the crowning point of existence, without due regard to the community and future generations. Or without an understanding of the different contexts that separate Africa from global capital. This materialist view on life has resulted in rural areas being neglected. Rural areas are still viewed with the colonial scorn of backwardness. A chasm between rural and urban areas exists because of this materialist/consumerist perspective, which does not bring in history or ideology.
With this background, it becomes clear why it seems Africans cannot solve their problems and always wait for foreign approval in the form of the United States, Europe, and of late Russia and China. The craving for approval by global capital means that there is a dearth of innovation in Africa. If it is not approved by the International Monetary Fund or World Bank (which are neoliberalist in how they approach economics) then it is useless. This is the prevailing but often unseen ideology running in several African countries. Africa’s admiration of lifestyles in the global north or east as presented by mainstream global media and social media means that there is a subconscious appreciation that whatever the US or Europe says, then it must be done. Because the belief is that if Africa does what these countries did, success will follow. Success as defined from a narcissistic, materialistic and individualistic point of view.
Africa’s Organic, Homegrown Solutions
But it is now time for Africa to shun most of what the United States or Europe says. Or Russia and China. There is an overwhelming need for African countries to ideologically renew themselves and go back to the source – the original values of the liberation struggle. African countries need to stop mimicking everything that global capital dictates. It is counter-productive. Neoliberalism as spread by African leaders has destroyed livelihoods and creates a situation where society is rigidly based on class. The rich (who own the means of production) continue to get rich while the poor (the urban and rural working-class plus the unemployed) continue to get poor.
African countries now need organic, homegrown solutions that aim to improve the welfare of everyone regardless of class. As Thomas Sankara advocated for. The need to rely on foreign powers should be extinguished. And replaced by an ideology that is people-centred and welfarist in outlook. Questions of approaching political and economic problems should be grounded in a pragmatic desire to improve the lives of the people, as well as their esteem regarding how they relate with global capital. Success should not be defined in individual terms such as cars owned, accessing private hospitals, the clothing designs one wears, or the neighbourhood where one lives. But questions of inclusive progress should revolve around universal access to water, housing, education, healthcare, transport, and power. The gaps between rural areas and urban areas should be reduced. And in developing rural areas, there is no need to mimic the blueprint of African colonial cities or cities in the global north.
This new, pragmatic way of solving Africa’s contemporary problems is firmly established in democratic socialism. The neoliberal instructions of global capital negate any progress that Africa makes. There is no need for European or American solutions when dealing with unique African problems. Nor Chinese and Russian solutions. Context is a vital ingredient and neoliberalism removes that from the picture. For Africa to truly surge, it should discard the neoliberal thoughts imposed on it by global capital. Africa must stand on its own. The elite cohesion in Africa must come to an end and be replaced by pragmatic democratic socialism.