IT is a paradox that the so called “underdeveloped” countries are the ones with the greatest wealth of natural resources, and yet the poorest in terms of consumer goods and services presently provided by and for the citizens. And in explaining this, some neo-economists want it to sound as if there is something God-given about this situation like in the Biblical literally context that “the poor are with us always”.
Certain “lost” economists have even gone to the extent of invoking the Bible: “For unto everyone that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance; but from him that shall be taken away even that which he hath” (St. Mathew XXV: 29). And if we can ask: But why should that one “hath” be taken away from Africa, always?
Nevertheless, the profound reasons for the economic backwardness of any given African nation, Tanzania inclusive, lie in the relationship between our countries and certain developed countries, and in recognizing that it is a relationship of exploitation and plunder.
One such means by which a nation exploits another is through trade. It is generally accepted that, when the terms of trade are set by one country or economic community in a manner entirely advantageous to itself, then the trade is detrimental to the trading partner.
Take, for example the export of agricultural produce from poor countries like Tanzania and the import of manufactured goods into these countries from Europe, North America and Japan; it is these nations that establish the price of the agricultural products and subject these prices to frequent reductions.
Further, the price of manufactured goods is also set by them, along with the freight rates necessary for trade via the ships of these nations.
If we can ask again: How much have we benefited with international trade agencies like the Doha Treaty under the neo-Colonial institutions like the “World Trade Organizations” - WTO?. Few tangible results indeed.
Further, what have we reaped from trade and export arrangements like the “AGOA” (Africa Growth Opportunity Act) since 2000, if not just price squeeze of our export commodities, devalued currencies and misery to the masses?
The same applies to the pricing of minerals. In essence, under this arrangement, the whole import and export relationship between Africa and its trading partners becomes one of unequal exchange and of exploitation.
More adverse than trade is the ownership of the means of production in a country by citizens of another country. Whereas under colonialism the ownership was completely and fully backed by military domination, today foreign ownership is on the offensive, albeit, the colonial armies and flags have disappeared.
Hence, so long as foreign companies own mines, factories, banks, insurance companies, major means of transportations (railways, airlines, power stations (IPTL), etc, without local participations, then, for so long shall wealth flow outwards into the hands of those elements.
Just tell us: What is all that behind transporting mine soil residue overseas having extracted gold from it? Is it not playing double standards by exporting without being questioned, minerals other than gold from same soil? Was it really necessary for our country to privatize the TRA, ATC and the NBC to our detriment?
Foreign investment usually takes the form of loans to African governments by European countries. The World Bank charges borrowers extremely high interest rates and requires the loans to be repaid in foreign currency. This makes poor countries slaves of the money lenders under debt-slavery. In this way, they cannot rise to make their way to development. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe correctly says, “the principal haemorrhage of developing countries (today) has been the debt problem”.
Moreover, the forms of investment have recently become widened and more dangerous from the so called aid [with strings], to management of local companies by international capitalist experts amidst abundant highly qualified local experts, like in the case of TANESCO’s Net Group Solution, the former DAWASCO’s foreign experts who were later booted out by the government for failing to deliver, just to mention a few examples.
Indeed, foreign investment is the cause and not the solution to our economic backwardness. It is the paradox of our underdevelopment in that under crushing tears for want of life, survival and better life, we are made to produce without reaping. What is being produced is reaped and consumed by the “affluent”.
The other factor responsible for our underdevelopment is the restrictions placed upon our capacity to make the maximum use of our economic potential, which is what development is all about. In a way, our economies are integrated into the very structure of developed economies, and which ensures that our poor countries are dependent on big capitalist countries.
More particularly, the backwardness of underdeveloped countries can never be adequately tackled without reference to neo-colonialist and neo-imperialist repercussions.
The main purpose of this type of colonialism is the expropriation of profits, produced by our labour, out of our resources, to the so-called “mother country”.
This means, the development of the “mother country” while at the same time it means the underdevelopment of our countries.
Whereas the mining which goes on in our countries leaves holes in the ground, and the nature of agricultural of production leaves our soils impoverished, in the “mother country”, agricultural and mineral imports build a massive industrial complex.
This was also the case of Africa during the pre-independence era, when in Europe, electrical devices were raised to qualitatively new levels, fantastic progress was made in communication and the manufacture of computers (all this done using minerals imported from Africa); not to mention the uranium from Congo, which was a pre-requisite for the making of the first atomic bomb by the US, during the second World War.
Today, how much are we sure the residue soil being “stolen” from the Buzwagi, Geita and Kahama mines and carted abroad, before our eves does not contain precious metals to great loss of income necessary for our development? Why are we developing an “ostrich” type of behaviour to betrayal of trust of our people? Is it because of ignorance or of being accomplices to the “deal and deed”?
As long as we continue producing for the so-called world market, which was founded on slavery and colonialism, our economies will remain colonial, and, likewise, any development will remain entirely incidental, leaving the majority of our people uninvolved in economic activity. Our economies become responsive only to what the Western World is prepared to buy and sell, and hardly responsive to our internal development needs.
Consequently, the correct prescription for us lies in “transforming” the economy from its neo-colonial, externally-responsive structure, to one which is internally-responsive. Forget about the “green revolution” fantasy or KILIMO KWANZA in the Tanzanian Political Context; but battle for an “agrarian reform” instead. The two are different while the former is externally inspired, the later is internally inspired, oriented and people centred.
This will involve a process of a new mindset and a process of mental de-colonization to appreciate that the developed countries are not innately “superior”, and that our salvation will not come from the West, but through a revolutionary path – a complete break with the system which is responsible for all our past and present misery.
Let us conclude our article like this: The neo-colonial machinisations are made possible and easier by ourselves and our leadership. Indeed we began our journey in search of development (models) by Kwame Nkrumah’s dictum: “Seek Ye First the political Kingdom and the rest shall be added unto”. Yet, since independence nothing has been “added unto”, instead even what we had has been taken away, in the spirit of St. Mathew XXV: 29. Indeed, we began as “hewers” of wood, but since independence we have hewn less wood than we did on the eve of independence.
Infact President Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, went far as to believe and assert that, independence would provide Africans with the opportunity, not only to restructure their societies in a manner suitable to their economic needs and traditional values, but would also enable Africans as Africans, and not as appendages or shadows of other people, to make contributions to world civilizations.
There were the dreams of Pan-Africanism embracing the entire continent, and a United States of Africa (USA) as an international economic power. These were surely, gallant and noble aspirations to recapture the pre-colonial past when Africa did indeed set standards, and positively contributed to world civilizations.
As part of neo-colonial monoevres, the pursuit of sustainable development in Africa has been both inadequate and defective. The causes are many. Amongst these are the failure of the inherited or imported models of development; sabotage or misapplication of indigenous ones, like the “Ujamaa” in our case; restriction of overseas markets due to protectionism; irresponsible and insensitive African leadership ; repression, lack of accountability and the absence of any meaningful form of public participation in the policy making process. In short, a serious case of bad governance.
Superimposed on all these problems is the spectre of corruption, greed, maladministration, insensitivity on the part of the leaders towards the poor and the powerless, repression and the denial of basic human rights.
These few misgivings when blend with neo-colonialism, have always produced a sense of betrayal, disappointment and bitterness in our countries crying for salvation through development. Where do we stand?