By Dorcas Mavugara
GLOBAL corporations operating in Africa have over the years spent millions of dollars every year lobbying to create an environmental policy that protects and enhances their interests.
These corporations have all along been thriving on creating a misconception that they are liberally pouring money into Africa and generously redirecting billions to fill the continent’s coffers. The result of these efforts has led to the creation of wars, conflict and environmental damage leading to widening inequality and vulnerability.
The total wealth of Africa and the continent’s leading role in maintaining lucrative value chains for its citizens have been concealed, falsified and distorted by Europeans who went on to conquer and subjugate the continent’s intellectual and economic legacy.
As Firoze Manji explained: “Africans are considered traditional not modern, tribal not democratic, underdeveloped not developed and lacking in all those things the West presumes itself to be.”
According to a 2020 report by the Health Poverty Action (HPA) annually foreign governments and their corporations are putting over US$38 billion dollars in Africa as ‘aid’ yet Africa is losing a total of US$182 billion each year which is being siphoned by European transnational corporations. The money is lost through debts, illegal fishing, health worker migration and climate change among other factors.
When African countries own and control their natural resources and economies for the benefit and welfare of their own, then only then will economic inequality be resolved, living standards improve, social conflict subside and brain drain diminish.
On December 15 last year, British organisation, Oxfam, released a document that had key inequality statistics showing that “85 world billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population”. These wealthy individuals and their corporations have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests that undermine the potential of the majority.
Huge continental losses have been registered in terms of both natural and human resources because of wars that have been generated at the behest and instigation of western corporations. To prevent such eventualities, African governments across the continent ought to make the right economic and political decisions. The leadership ought to change the rules on tax to make sure the richest pay their fair share and also have more spending on public health and education to give poor people a fighting chance than give exploiting transnational corporations tax breaks.
According to Thomas Sankara: “Africa is a fabulously wealthy continent ruled by a feeble elite who have perverted the meaning of African pride, lack of original thinking and are beholden to vicious ideologies packaged as national truisms.”
The increasing poverty levels and widening inequality gap in Africa are also necessitated by African leaders who are busy embracing neo-colonial policies that have capitalist footprints leading to exploitation of the masses.
They have ultimately connived with former and contemporary colonisers to eradicate prosperous lives of Africans. It is because such African leaders have entrusted a transfer of the continent’s resources to their neo-liberal masters and in the end becoming agents of modern economic exploiters, the comprador bourgeoise. As a result, conflicts continue to occur in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria’s Borno state and across the Sahel region.
The extreme inequality, caused by these corporations and their local African henchmen, threatens to undo much of the progress that Africa has made over the past years in tackling poverty. However, the poverty situation is not inevitable in the continent as it is a consequence of economic and political choices by the comprador bourgeoise.
Poverty on women, young girls, youth and other vulnerable groups living with disabilities has become a permanent feature that even charity organisations cannot redeem as their business is to maintain poverty in drips and drops.
“A black child with a transparent rib-case, huge head, bloated stomach, protruding eyes and twigs as arms and legs was the favourite poster of the large British charitable operation known as Oxfam,” said Walter Rodney about the image portrayed of Africa by European governments.
Currently, the economies of Eurozone countries have begun deteriorating into devastating recession yet they are having their eyes on Africa.
Africa is in this for the long-haul. It is clear the continent cannot solve the poverty and inequality crises overnight. Over the coming months or years, African citizens should be able to take on governments and big business to make sure they deliver the real change needed to reverse the trend of rising inequality. They should also be bold to tell their governments to sort out the tax system so that huge corporations pay their fair share, and that poor countries do not lose billions in revenue.
Dorcas Mavugara is a studying for a Masters in Politics and International Relations at the University of Zimbabwe. She writes in her personal capacity.