The Path To African Economic Empowerment — Regionally Integrated Industrialization



Nkrumah visits with Kennedy, March 8, 1961. The C.I.A. was involved in his removal during the Johnson administration in 1966.
In the 18th and 19th centuries European countries and the United States industrialized by protecting and nurturing domestic industries while accumulating surplus either through labor of enslaved Africans, plunder, or colonialism. Japan industrialized later and then in the 20th century other countries followed like South Korea and China. 
Industrialization –which is how the economically developed countries have created wealth and prosperity for their citizens– doesn’t happen accidentally. It occurs through very deliberate well-planned governmental programs and interventions; with the state working together with the private sector. 
Governments are the engine; they are sometimes co-drivers with the private sector, and in some cases, the private industry becomes the sole driver. Where industrialization succeeds it always involves joint enterprise between government and private industry. The private sector has never done it alone; not even in South Korea, which is often erroneously pointed to as a model, as the late Samir Amin explained. The government-controlled enterprises in South Korea were the engines of industry and preferential market access to the United States sustained the production and allowed growth.
Nowhere in the world is government intervention in domestic industries, trade and investment relations  more intense than in the United States, Europe and Japan; Samir Amin referred to them as the “Triad.” A Google search will reveal many stories where U.S. officials are in trade disputes with their European, Japanese, Mexican, Canadian, or Chinese counterparts. The U.S. occasionally blocks Chinese companies from buying certain American companies deemed too vital in the national interest even while every American president sings praises to the “free market”. 
Yet, today in 21st century Africa, the mantras of Western governments and the World Bank, the institution they control, are “private sector,” “free market,” “government out.” These are recipes for perpetual impoverishment in Africa.  
Collectively Africa has the human capital, and potential for training skilled workers, and the raw materials– mineral resources, the land and natural resources for the continent’s development. Congo alone has resources with estimated value of $27 trillion. Collectively, a significant proportion of Africa’s nearly 1.3 billion people provide the consumer markets to sustain industrialization. 
Africa’s potential is constrained by its neocolonial political and economic relations with the West. Conditions for loans imposed by the World Bank, called “structural adjustment” often require that recipients: eliminate domestic governmental subsidies, including to companies that are “not profitable”, when in fact nurturing domestic industries require sustained losses for a period; eliminate subsidies to social services, education, and healthcare (resulting in the collapse of once stellar educational and healthcare services in some African countries); open up the domestic markets to foreign manufactured goods of all types–which would eliminate nascent African manufacturing industries; and, opening markets to short term capital flows, which promotes capital speculating in the mining sectors (and promoting the kind of corruption we see in Congo), rather than long-term investments to finance industries.  
Africa’s economic relations with the industrialized West is comparable to its relations with Europe during the colonial regime. The colonial regime turned Africa into suppliers of raw materials and commodities to fuel Europe’s industries; Africans became consumers of European manufactures. Under such dependency arrangements, industrialization was not permitted –it was even undermined and in the few African locales emerging industries destroyed. In Kenya the colonial authorities passed a law banning capital for Africans. This is because the colonial powers did not want to create industrialized competitors.
The enforcers of the regimes of economic exploitation in Africa were led by European governors and senior European officials including district commissioners and African underlings. Today, the enforcers are some neocolonial presidents such as Uganda’s dictator of 32 years Gen. Yoweri Museveni. In the introduction of his 1965 book Neo-Colonialism The Last Stage of Imperialism, Kwame Nkrumah warned of the emergence of such leaders. He wrote that since such rulers owed their survival to Western governments they would ignore their own citizens while continuing to provide Africa’s resources to the West. “In the first place, the rulers of neo-colonial States derive their authority to govern, not from the will of the people, but from the support which they obtain from their neo-colonialist masters. They have therefore little interest in developing education, strengthening the bargaining power of their workers employed by expatriate firms, or indeed of taking any step which would challenge the colonial pattern of commerce and industry, which it is the object of neo-colonialism to preserve.”
In return such rulers get military and financial support for their domestic budgetary shortfalls. The Western governments that support them ignore human rights abuses when they suppress and brutalize their own citizens. There’s no better example than contemporary Uganda under Gen. Museveni.
In order for African countries to economically develop Samir Amin argued that there was a need for regional and sub-regional cooperation to create integrated industries. By this he meant industries that use domestic materials for manufacturing (providing the input and output) and domestic, regional and sub-regional markets for consumers. As Thomas Sankara put it once, “Let’s produce what we need, and consume what we produce.”
Samir Amin gave an example of where Zambia would export its copper through Tanzania while along the railway route building industries that would manufacture products such as copper tubes for the domestic and regional markets. Samir Amin said while relative cost and the prices of domestic products would be higher in the short run, it would pay off in the long run by creating domestic industries.
Capital would be needed to finance such industries. Samir Amin argued that capital could be created: domestically, by policies that would allow African countries to retain a larger share of profits that now primarily go to foreign corporations in the existing commodity trading relations; and, by accessing alternative sources of financing such as Brazil or China. 
China recently announced that it would provide African countries with $60 billion in financing. The financing will only have significant positive impact if the monies are directed at integrated industrialization in Africa. If the funds are directed primarily into extractive industries this would benefit China while fueling corruption in African countries. 
The importance of regional economic cooperation and eventually continental cooperation in Africa can’t be underestimated. Samir Amin spoke of the need for a Pan Africanism based not only on racial pride –we are “Black and proud”– but which goes much farther; wanting to change Africa’s weak economic relations with the rest of the world. 
African countries cannot independently pursue economic policies that challenge the West and the World Bank. Individual countries would be isolated, ostracized, and undermined, diplomatically and politically. Leaders seen as a threat to the neocolonial relationship are generally deposed or killed. In July, 1987, at the O.A.U. annual summit in Addis Ababa, Sankara said African countries must confront the West collectively about the foreign debt crisis. He predicted that if Burkina Faso did it alone he would not be alive to attend the next year’s conference. Some African rulers laughed when he said this. In October 1987, Sankara was dead.  
Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, an African nationalist of an earlier era was killed in 1961 and Ghana’s Nkrumah overthrown in 1966 with the involvement of the C.I.A.  
However, agents of neocolonialism are always sustained in power for decades: Mobutu Sese Seko who helped kill Lumumba (37 years), Blaise Compaore who killed Sankara (27 years), and Gen. Museveni (32 years) come to mind.  
It’s imperative to remove tyrannical regimes so that dedicated Africans with a vision for their countries and for the continent can get down to serious work of economically empowering Africa. 

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