“Redefining Afrika’s Political Identity in the Era of Globalisation”- 2nd Mayihlome Annual Lecture

Trade is not new. Struggle is not new. Both are as old as human endeavor and for as long as the two have been at odds , there have been fierce battles fought . Whether it was called imperialism, colonialism, global oppression, apartheid the struggle by the many against the economic tyranny of the few remains one of the longest in human history. International trade too has an ancient history. The context for Afrika includes a conflation between colonial interests ,political subjugation and economic control. The story of Afrika after the invaders is essentially a story of the West’s insatiable appetite for raw materials, cheap labour and beautiful minerals ,wildlife and fauna all of which Afrika “Free trade” is not a new experiment either it has been tried before. Prior to the advent of colonialism, the region used to dominate international trade. Colonialism distorted the terms of trade and Third World countries were transformed from being exporters of manufactured commodities to being suppliers of raw materials and a market for British manufactures. What has changed are the uncomfortable, unfavorable and often immoral terms of engagement between the global South and the North.

The prevailing trade paradigm presupposes the existence of equal power relations equal gender relations, equal race relations, equal access to resources and equal voice in economic agenda setting. This is an absolute lie. Some are clearly more equal than others and their voices more audible than others. The ascendance of the World Trade Organisation in 1995 as the overarching body has given rise to continued discussions detailing the historical and structural inequities that prevail unfettered in the current global trading system. It is in fact the institutionalisation of every lie about the supposedly equal nature of power relations between the global communities.

Another way is possible

Having presented all the above it seems appropriate to present alternatives by way of anchoring an alternative paradigm and the arising discourse.

The Arusha Declaration

The Arusha Declaration, which was passed on January 29, 1967, summarized Tanzania’s commitment to socialism and the significant role that it was to play in the country’s development.

The document was originally written by Julius K. Nyerere, who served as the first president of Tanzania between 1964 and 1985. The Tanganyika Afrikan National Union (TANU), the major political party before and after independence, also helped establish the principles which guided the Declaration. TANU’s leaders, who were mostly civil servants, teachers, farmers, or traders, welcomed the statement. In fact there were few capitalists in Tanzania in the early 1960s to challenge the document supporting a socialist model of economic development.

This declaration emphasized self-reliance, frugality, and self-denial. It stated that everyone in the state, whatever his or her actual occupation, was a worker and that all means of production would be nationalized for the people. The concept of Ujamaa was the centerpiece of the social and economic development program. Here groups of village families worked together on communal farms for the common good. The Declaration also included a Leadership Code to promote equality among all Tanzania citizens. This code was one of numerous attempts to prevent party leaders and well-to-do individuals from forming privileged, exploitative groups. The Arusha Declaration as a whole sought to reduce the income inequality among all citizens and shift development efforts towards rural areas. It argued that the country was involved in a war against poverty and oppression.

In addition to aiming for a self-sustaining economy, it reformed the education system. The three significant changes that it made, were putting more emphasis on primary education rather than secondary education, commending practical knowledge more than book knowledge, and gearing education more towards agricultural skills. Its failure has been attributed to a host of factors such as being an ideological flight of fancy, external interference , lack of broad Afrikan cohesion , the lack of an institutional paradigm with resources and human capital to drive the process.

1. Promoting local and limiting global economic activity
2. Paying a basic, non-means-tested income to all citizens
3. Encouraging complementary currencies to stimulate economic activities in cash-poor communities
4. Monetary reform to diminish the money generating monopoly of the banking system
5. A tax structure which taxes non-renewable inputs and value subtracted (‘bads’) rather than income and value added (‘goods’).

Proponents of the above policies need to be adapted with great insight to the specific circumstances of this country. In particular it is necessary to consider the dual nature of the most Afrikan economies and to match consumption patterns to local production capacity. Arguably the most serious problem of South Afrika’s economic path and policies has been that of inadequate growth – and in recent years an absolute decline – in job opportunities in the formal sector of the economy..

In protecting ourselves from the forces of globalisation some argue for following the route of Albania or Burma or Cuba, and insulate Afrikan countries from global influences. These countries have managed this by a process of isolation and rigid control. This it does by setting the ‘boundaries of the economic playing field’ and the ‘rules of the economic game’ on the basis of the above principles and such that the self-interest of producers and consumers will coincide with socially, economically, structurally and environmentally sound choices.

The Question of Women

“Women-focused gender politics would work for transformation at three levels, namely at the level of our subjectivity, at the level of our personal lives and relationships and thirdly at the level of political economy. Women’s liberation requires addressing gender injustice all the way from micro- to the macro-political level, and not shying away from any level of struggle.” [Amina Mama]

For all the progress which has been made in promoting the idea of the centrality of gender to the robustness of any social projects and the completeness of any national intent of social transformation, a considerable amount of work still remains to be done. The challenges that are posed could be said to centre around the need to consolidate the many critiques of development that have been made from various gender – and feminist perspectives into a comprehensive, internally coherent and consistent set of alternatives on the basis of which further advances in theory, method and praxis could be achieved.

1 thought on ““Redefining Afrika’s Political Identity in the Era of Globalisation”- 2nd Mayihlome Annual Lecture

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: