Africa and the G-8
Broken promises & worsening poverty
Published Jul 20, 2009 9:25 PM
This year’s Group of 8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, once again
demonstrated the failure of capitalist economic policies to bring genuine
development to the African continent. The summit’s final day discussed
the G-8 providing aid to Africa for agricultural programs. The fact that
previous pledges of $50 billion made at the 2005 meeting in Gleneagles,
Scotland, have not been met, however, made African leaders even more skeptical
about the role of Europe and the United States in the future of the
The current economic crisis is having a devastating impact on African states.
The continuation of the current system will widen further the income gap
between the Western capitalist states and the countries that have emerged from
colonial and semi-colonial rule. The declining standard of living and
increasing poverty rate in Africa will result in more job losses, greater food
insecurity and social instability.
ActionAid spokesperson Meredith Alexander said of the L’Aquila Summit
that: “Although the G-8 leaders reaffirmed their Gleneagles promises this
week, their own accountability report does not even acknowledge how far off
track they are. This suggests that the Gleneagles promises are increasingly
unlikely to be met. It is another failure for the world’s poor.”
(Independent, July 11)
United Nations figures indicate that the number of malnourished people around
the world has risen since 2007. By the conclusion of 2009 the number is
expected to surpass one billion, reversing declines made since the 1960s.
Consequently, the world economic crisis is effectively eliminating the limited
progress made since the triumphs of the national independence movements during
the 1960s and 1970s.
Jeremy Hobbs of the British-based aid organization Oxfam said of the G-8
Summit, “For Obama it was ‘yes we can.’ For
Berlusconi’s G-8, it’s ‘no we won’t.’ This summit
has been a shambles, it did nothing for Africa, and the world is still being
cooked.” Referring to the next G-8 meeting, he continued, “Canada
2010 is the end of the road for the G-8—all the promises they have made
are due. They have 12 short months to avoid being remembered as the ones who
let the poor and the planet die.” (Independent, July 11)
Joanne Green of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development stressed the need
for aid to go directly to African farmers and not to agribusiness companies:
“Tonight one billion people will go to bed hungry because the food system
that rich countries have created isn’t working. Climate change will only
increase the vulnerability of poor people as land and water are degraded.
Supporting small-scale farmers is vital, so that they are less reliant on the
peaks and troughs of the global food market and the multinational players who
dominate.” (Independent, July 11)
Robert Fox, the executive director of Oxfam Canada, said in a blog on July 8
that “Performance on aid varies greatly among G-8 members but together
they fall $23 billion short of the target they set in 2005. The result? At
least 3 million lives have been lost—women who die needlessly in
childbirth; children who fall victim to preventable diseases; persons with AIDS
whose lives are cut short because they could not get treatment.”
(All-Africa.com, July 8)
Capitalist crisis: impact on women
The declining economic and social conditions in Africa and other so-called
developing areas will inevitably have a damaging impact on efforts aimed at
achieving gender equality. If there is an increase in assistance for
agricultural production, it is necessary to ensure that the bulk of resources
allocated go directly to women. In many African countries, women are
responsible for 80 percent or more of food production.
Sabina Zaccaro writes, “The problem is funding. According to the World
Bank, the economic crisis and the new rise in food prices could lead to 2.8
million more children dying by 2015 if no concrete action is taken. Sixty
billion dollars are needed over the next five years to fight infectious
diseases and strengthen health systems in the developing world.” (IPS,
Consequently, if no direct attention is paid to the plight of women and
children in the current global capitalist crisis, more people will be driven
into poverty through shrinking incomes, increases in infant mortality,
malnutrition and the decline in labor productivity.
Obama’s message in Ghana blames the victims
Following the G-8 Summit in Italy, U.S. President Barack Obama flew to the West
African state of Ghana for an official visit. Media pundits proclaimed that
this was his first trip to Africa since taking office, overlooking his recent
speech in Cairo.
These corporate media statements reveal the ongoing racist notion of two
Africas, one north of the Sahara and so-called sub-Saharan Africa. The
progressive forces on the continent have rejected these colonial divisions and
Despite all its challenges, the African Union held serious discussions at its
summit in Libya July 1-3 around creating greater economic, political and
military cooperation on the continent.
The symbolic return home of the first U.S. president of African descent was
well received by both the governments and the people. Nonetheless,
Obama’s message represented no real departure from the traditional
post-independence approach of U.S. foreign policy towards Africa.
The bulk of Obama’s remarks criticized corruption and inefficiency on the
part of African states, with implications that these problems were the root
causes of poverty and underdevelopment. He made little reference to the
legacies of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism as the real source of
The president visited the slave castle at Cape Coast where he reflected on the
tragedy of the four-century-long Atlantic slave trade. In his address before
the Ghana parliament, however, he stated that although colonialism created
division and conflict on the continent, this could no longer be viewed as a
major impediment to African progress.
Obama’s remark that “the economic problems in Zimbabwe could not be
blamed on the West” received a cool response from parliamentarians. It
totally missed the mark in regard to the ongoing unequal relations between
former colonial states and the imperialist countries. In Zimbabwe, the
revolutionary African National Union, Patriotic Front and the western-backed
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions have formed an inclusive
government, yet the United States and the United Kingdom continue to maintain
Ghana was praised for its ostensible progress related to the notions of
“good governance.” Yet this state, which achieved national
independence from Britain in 1957, fell victim to U.S. imperialist intervention
after President Kwame Nkrumah sought to place pan-Africanism and socialism as
the principal objectives of the nation’s domestic and foreign policy. A
coup against Nkrumah in 1966 was financed and engineered by U.S. imperialism
through the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Since 1966, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have sought to
remake Ghana in the image of the West. Consequently, it is not surprising that
the Obama administration selected this country for the presidential visit
instead of states such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, which take a more independent
By blaming Africa’s economic and social problems on its governments and
people, Obama’s talk provides a rationale for the G8’s failure to
honor its commitments to provide development assistance to the continent.
An article published in the Malaysian Star noted that, “The decline in
agriculture in many African countries was due to the structural adjustment
policies of the IMF and World Bank. These countries were asked or advised to
dismantle marketing boards and guaranteed prices for farmers’ products;
phase out or eliminate subsidies and support such as fertilizer, machines,
agricultural infrastructure, and reduce tariffs of food products to very low
levels.” (July 13)
Consequently, the rhetoric of Obama is not fundamentally different than what
has been advanced through successive U.S. administrations. What is needed is an
independent domestic and foreign policy based on the needs of African people
themselves, and not the policy imperatives of the U.S. and European
From the G-8 to the G-20 in Pittsburgh
The next G-20 Summit is set for Pittsburgh, Pa., this September. The G-20
represents an attempt by the imperialists to broaden the discussions around
economic issues to involve not only the so-called High Income Countries but to
also engage other states such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, etc.,
which are former colonial and semi-colonial states that have experienced
economic development resulting from the evolving international division of
labor and economic power.
That the High Income Countries face grave economic difficulties provides
openings for workers and the oppressed in both the developed and developing
regions to open a dialogue and plan joint efforts to tackle the main forces
behind the crisis in capitalist globalization. Anti-imperialists, social
justice advocates and other mass organizations are mobilizing to go to
Pittsburgh in order to advance an alternative agenda that places the workers,
nationally oppressed and women at the center of any development program.
Efforts must be made to involve broad forces in the demonstrations surrounding
the G-20 Summit. Special appeals should be made to the African-American,
Latina/o, Asian-American, Native and LGBT communities and other oppressed
groups to attend and participate fully in the resistance efforts.
Rank-and-file workers and unemployed people should be encouraged to go to
Pittsburgh and put forward an agenda that transcends and refutes the failed
“buy American” sloganeering that has led nowhere in regard to
preserving workers’ jobs and homes in the United States.
It is only when the workers and oppressed in the United States recognize the
common interests they have with the plight of the peoples of the developing
world that a real international movement can be built that will effectively end
capitalism and imperialism and create the conditions for socialism on a
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