The global economic crisis and imperialist quest for Africa’s resources
Published Nov 15, 2009 5:32 PM
Over the last two years more than 7 million workers inside the United States
have lost their jobs, according to official figures supplied by the federal
government. The impact has been felt in all sectors of the economy, including
heavy and light industry, retail, high technology, public service, education,
health care and culture.
This economic downturn has resulted in an estimated 34 million workers being
left either unemployed or underemployed. As of November, the unemployment rate
stands at 10.2 percent and no reasonable forecast predicts a sudden upswing in
employment during the immediate period.
Real wages have been in severe decline. Trillions of dollars in housing,
savings, health care benefits, educational resources and pension funds have
been taken from working families and the oppressed and turned over to the
financial sector and the Pentagon. Despite the election of a Democratic
congress and administration, the conditions for working people and the
nationally oppressed have worsened during 2009.
This economic crisis, which originated in the United States and other Western
imperialist states, has had a tremendous impact on the oppressed nations that
are former colonies and semi-colonies of Europe and the United States. In
Africa tens of millions of people have been thrust into unemployment and
poverty over the last two years.
At a recent meeting in Ethiopia of the Economic Commission for Africa, a
United-Nations-sponsored research organization, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General
Asha-Rose Migiro delivered a major address in which she outlined the impact of
the world financial crisis on the African continent. Migiro related the current
situation to the Millennium Development Goals for 2015, which stated that
poverty in Africa would be reduced by 50 percent.
The deputy secretary-general pointed out that “despite some notable
achievements, progress is off track across the continent.” (ECA, Nov. 9)
Even though there was limited growth in Africa between 2000 and 2008, the
recessions in the western countries have plunged the continent into a new round
of economic decline, resulting in social distress that has bred internal
Migiro says that the growth rates during the earlier part of the decade were
commendable, “but that good news is in peril. The economic crisis, for
which Africa bears no responsibility, has drastically reversed recent
The growth rate for Africa in 2009 is projected to reach a paltry 1.7 percent.
“Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals is likely to be
adversely affected. The food and energy crises, as well as climate change, will
also complicate our work.”
A task force of the MDG known as the Africa Steering Group, which was formed in
July, is scheduled to meet in New York on Nov. 23. The group, chaired by U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is calling for initiatives in the areas of
education, health, agriculture and infrastructure designed to speed up progress
toward the alleviation of poverty.
In regard to agricultural development, the Africa Steering Group has called for
the international community to supply $750 million to assist in the short-term
objectives resulting from the rapidly rising costs of food. The group also
urged African states to work with other regions to launch a so-called
“Green Revolution” in agriculture.
According to Migiro: “The economic crisis makes the need for action even
more urgent. The crisis has pushed about 100 million people back into extreme
poverty across the world. It has cost more than 50 million jobs this year
The U.N. official continued by saying: “Although some markets are
bouncing back, the early signs of recovery have not produced many new jobs. For
the crisis to be over, those who want to work should be able to find stable and
The global crisis and the drive for Africa’s
Since the rise of the imperialist occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, more
people in the Middle East and Asia have intensified their resistance against
United States foreign policy aims in these regions. Well over 4,000 U.S. troops
have been killed in Iraq and more than 30,000 have been wounded. Hundreds of
thousands of others have suffered permanent physical and psychological injuries
as a result of the occupations.
In Afghanistan the rate of death among U.S. soldiers is escalating at a
tremendous rate. In October, approximately 60 occupation troops were killed
along with other personnel from the United Nations, which is serving as a
conduit of the occupying NATO forces. The military budget of the United States
is at its largest in history, despite the fact that the majority of people
inside the country want a withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The impact of the occupations is most dramatic among the affected populations
in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Pakistan. Various reports indicate that more than
1 million people have died in these countries since the beginning of the
occupations and the expansion of the U.S. war into Pakistan.
In the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia, millions of people have been displaced
both internally and outside the country since the U.S.-backed Ethiopian
invasion in December 2006. Flotillas of warships from the imperialist nations
and other states are currently patrolling the Gulf of Aden in a purported
anti-piracy campaign, while people inside the region are suffering from the
worst food deficits in more than two decades.
During the course of the recent period, the U.S. oil industry has been relying
more on exports of petroleum from the African continent. This reliance on oil
exports has coincided with greater U.S. military involvement in West
In Ghana, for example, the recent discovery of oil reserves off the coast of
the country has set into motion a new scramble for these resources by the
imperialist-based oil firms from the U.S., Britain and France. These efforts by
the multinational oil companies are clashing with the offers from the
People’s Republic of China, which is stepping up its economic cooperation
efforts in Africa.
The activities of the Dallas-based oil firm Kosmos have angered officials in
Accra. The company has been accused of attempting to reap windfall profits from
the sale of its oil industry interests, which were negotiated under a previous,
more conservative government.
A recent report published in Ghana Public Agenda states: “Sources close
to [the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation] have described Kosmos’
behaviour as recalcitrant and selfish. ‘They have misbehaved and are now
resorting to tricks to cover their misdeeds,’ said a source at GNPC.
Kosmos’ alleged share-trading deal with Exxon Mobil was described by
Ghanaian officials as having no effect.” (Oct. 27)
The report points out: “The move by the Texas-based company was clearly
intended to hype the value of its stake and use that in its subsequent
negotiation with the Ghanaian government. Kosmos again has been accused by GNPC
as showing bad faith by disclosing vital technical and financial data to third
parties without the express consent of its partners in the Jubilee Field [Ghana
oil resources], including GNPC, an act for which GNPC is bent on exacting its
pound of flesh.”
Illustrating the role of the PRC in this process, the article stresses,
“Realising that it was losing ground to the Chinese, who have made
generous overtures to the Ghanaian Government and are willing to go beyond
helping GNPC to finance its purchase of Kosmos’ stake to providing some
budgetary support to Ghana, Exxon Mobil has made a U-turn on its alleged deal
with Kosmos and is now courting GNPC for the coveted shares.”
Other multinational oil firms are also maneuvering for a share in Ghana’s
oil wealth. British Petroleum is being advised by Goldman Sachs of New York on
how to finance its expansion into the burgeoning West African oil industry. In
addition, the French-based Total is also interested in purchasing a stake in
the quest for black gold.
An article reprinted on Ghana’s Joy Online website points out that so
many western firms are pressing hard for a portion of the newly discovered oil
resources. Author David Lee Smith asks: “Why is the stake so valuable? It
just so happens that Jubilee may lie at the eastern edge of a 700-mile
structure that could finish up at the western edge in Sierra Leone. Oil was
discovered there recently in nearly 6,000 feet of water by a group that
included Anadarko Petroleum ... and Spain’s Repsol, along with the
U.K.’s Tullow Oil and Australia’s Woodside Oil.” (Oct.
Other resources sought in eastern and southern Africa
In addition to the efforts by oil firms based in the western imperialist
countries, in Somalia the efforts by the military and naval forces off its
coasts and throughout the East Africa region are designed to control the flow
of resources and goods through the Gulf of Aden as well as the Indian Ocean.
The collapse of the Somalia government in 1991 also provided the opportunity
for western countries to take control of the region’s enormous seafood
resources, which had supplied a livelihood for people in the fishing
Other reports have indicated that for many years the nuclear and chemical
producing states have used the waters off Somalia to dump waste that has
contaminated the waters and the shores.
Johann Hari of the London-based Independent newspaper describes these dumps:
“As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started
appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The
coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes,
nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the
dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from
radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.” (Jan. 5)
The article points out: “This is the context in which the
‘pirates’ have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try
to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a ‘tax’ on
them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia—and
ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found
70 per cent ‘strongly supported the piracy as a form of national
In the Southern African nation of Zimbabwe, a recent round of attacks has been
leveled at the country in attempts to ban its diamonds from being distributed
on the international market. The government of President Robert Mugabe and the
ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party has been battling
for a decade to stave off attempts at regime change by the imperialist states
of Britain, the U.S. and the European Union.
An Associated Press article stated, “The world’s diamond control
body is calling on Zimbabwe to clean up a lawless field, but has stopped short
of suspending the country from a process meant to keep ‘blood’ gems
off the market.” (Nov. 6)
These efforts can only be continuing the same imperialist aims of overthrowing
the ZANU-PF government, which fought for the national liberation of the country
during the 1960s and 1970s. ZANU-PF has entered into an inclusive alliance with
the western-backed Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai opposition party,
which is being funded by the U.S. as a parallel government. MDC-T recently
engaged in another attempt to break up the inclusive arrangement in response to
the arrest and threatened prosecution of a white settler businessman who was
accused of smuggling arms into the country for the purpose of staging a violent
attack on the president and his party.
Role of AFRICOM must be challenged
For more than a year now the U.S. Africa Command has been officially in
operation in the western European state of Germany. The efforts of the U.S.
imperialists to base AFRICOM directly on the continent generated considerable
controversy and opposition during 2007 and early 2008. Consequently, the
AFRICOM project has sought more subtle methods of enhancing U.S. military
intervention on the continent.
The U.S. has established a military base in the Horn of Africa nation of
Djibouti at Camp Lemonier, where some 2,000 troops are stationed. This base
hosts the Combined Joint Task Force, which is ostensibly set up to combat
“terrorism” in the region.
In an Oct. 27 article published on the Toronto-based globalresearch.ca website,
author Rick Rozoff reviews the numerous U.S. military efforts on the African
continent and the various countries involved in joint operations currently
taking place under the Obama administration. These military operations are
closely related to the U.S. desire to control the flow of oil and other
strategic resources from the African continent into the imperialist states.
For example, the oil-producing West African nation of Gabon was the site of a
large-scale military exercise involving the U.S. and number of countries on the
continent. Rozoff states, “On September 29 AFRICOM led the militaries of
30 African nations in the ten-day Africa Endeavor 2009 maneuvers in Gabon off
the coast of the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.”
Rozoff quotes a Sept. 30 Associated Press article: “The U.S. military has
begun an exercise in the African nation of Gabon ... to improve command and
control between forces for possible peacekeeping or anti-terrorism missions.
Africom ... is sponsoring the exercise and much of the instruction is done by
U.S. military personnel based in Europe and the United States.”
In addition to the exercise in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, in East
Africa, “From October 16-25 the U.S. is heading a multinational military
exercise, Natural Fire 10, in Uganda in which ‘More than 1,000 American
and East African troops are... deployed... as the United States carries out its
biggest military exercise in Africa this year.’ [quoted from the East
African, Oct. 12]”
This article continues by stating that “Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda
and Burundi are to provide troops to join 450 U.S. military personnel in drills
which ‘involve live fire in the field as well as convoy operations, crowd
control and vehicle checkpoints.’ [quoted from the East African, Oct.
The author cites an African newspaper that was critical of the recent joint
military exercise between various regional states and the United States. The
article put forward the notion that the East African maneuvers were geared
toward providing security for the U.S.-based regime in Uganda which has been
challenged for years by a rebel group in the north of the country.
These U.S. military exercises are escalating at a critical period when the
economies of both the imperialist states and the developing countries are
undergoing tremendous upheaval and distress. Anti-war and anti-imperialist
forces inside the United States and other western industrialized states must
raise the increasing military involvement in Africa as a major source of the
continuing underdevelopment and destabilization of the continent.
The military maneuvers and exploitation of resources in Africa have not
provided any relief to the hundreds of millions of people suffering from
unemployment, poverty and food deficits on the continent. In conjunction with
the workers, farmers and their organizations in Africa, the progressive forces
in the United States must oppose all efforts aimed at the further exploitation
of the continent’s resources as well as the occupation of its lands by
the international capitalists and their military forces.
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