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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 instability.

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 trends.”

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 alone.”

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 productive jobs.”

The global crisis and the drive for Africa’s resources

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 Africa.

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. 28)

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 industry.

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 defence.’”

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. 12]”

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.