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The Future of Africa

D 20 août 2016     H 05:54     A     C 0 messages

Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources but plagued by poverty. Africa conjures in the minds of many white people images of backwardness, disease, ignorance and poverty. There appears to be little appreciation of the fact that Africa is the second largest continent in the world and, with a population of about 1.2 billion, the second most populous. Africa holds 60% of the world’s strategic minerals, specifically, 65% of its cobalt, 18% of its gold, 95% of platinum, 42% of diamonds, 8% of natural gas, plus vast deposits of oil and uranium.

This begs the question : why is Africa, so rich in resources, the poorest continent on earth ? What is the value of diamonds or gold underground when the owners living above them endure a sad miserable life and cannot exploit them and add value to them ?

First, the slave trade, which operated from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, led to a loss of an estimated 42 million people from Africa, draining the continent of many of its strongest and fittest.

Secondly, the colonial period from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, although it led to the termination of inter-tribal wars and the introduction of law and order and education, also caused considerable damage to the self-confidence of the people, stifled economic development and choked off growth in entrepreneurial skills. Manufacturing was vigorously discouraged so Africa would not compete with factories in the countries of the colonial powers – France, Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany. For centuries, even up to now, Africa has been primarily an exporter of raw materials and natural produce.

Vast fields are ripe for development, among them solar energy, wind power, oil and other minerals, the processing of cocoa into chocolates and of palm oil into margarine, soap and other detergents. Housing provides another rich opportunity. The irrigation of the Sahara and Kalahari deserts into fruitful agricultural lands, following the recent discovery of water under the deserts, and the mechanisation of farming also deserves attention. All this is only the tip of the iceberg, considering Africa’s tremendous and huge untapped natural and mineral resources.

Attempts to "woo big business", to make common cause between the interests of capital and those of labour are bound to founder on the reality of class struggle. This should be particularly obvious in countries like South Africa and Nigeria. The legacy of massive structural inequality cannot begin to be tackled through the market mechanism which works to concentrate wealth in fewer hands. Between the hammer of the state and the anvil of the market, the working class will continue to suffer rampant exploitation and grinding poverty.

It does not have to be like this. There is an alternative which, in fact, has far more in common with the best traditions of African communalism, and which looks beyond the state or the market for the real emancipation of the great majority.

There can be no national solution to the struggles of workers in Africa because capitalism is itself international. Their struggles are closely linked to the struggles of workers here in Britain and elsewhere ; our fate is bound up with theirs. The Socialist Party, therefore, urges our fellow workers in Africa to seriously consider the socialist alternative.

What we seek cannot be brought about by putting our trust in leaders, no matter how sincere or enlightened ; it must arise from the self-organisation of ordinary people, conscious of that alternative, and determined to make it a reality. Together, we can make it a reality. In so doing, we will have nothing to lose but our chains ; we have a World to win.