SOURCE: Google Groups “COSATU-press”
Should Africa be Celebrating the African Union Day?
The Congress of South African Trade Unions takes this opportunity to convey a fraternal message of solidarity to the working and struggling people of our continent – within Africa and in the diaspora – on this the 50th anniversary of the birth of our premiere continental body, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – formed by thirty one African governments on 25 May 1963, then transformed in 2001 to become the African Union (AU).
The history of Africa is yet to be told and by the rightful story-tellers – the freedom fighters, workers, peasants, women, youth and students, and the broad progressive
community of our people seeking freedom from poverty, war, hunger, inequalities and plunder of our natural resources.
It is a history written in the blood of and sweat of liberation martyrs and patriots, whose names disappear in the memory of our post-independent Africa as we begin to embrace our newly-found allies and friends, most of whom were not part of our rich legacy of struggle or even worse, were part of the enemy forces in our struggle for self-determination and end to colonialism and human rights abuses.
The prophetic warning in the title of Walter Rubusane’s seminal book: Zemk’inkomo Magwala Ndini (Gone are your cattle you bloody cowards), were as relevant then as they are now. The continent was suffering from colonial looting then, and still suffers from neo-colonial looting now.
The OAU’s objectives included:
(a) To promote the unity and solidarity of the African states;
(b) To coordinate and intensify co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa;
(c) To defend sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence;
(d) To eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa.
The AU Charter is substantially similar to the OAU one. Some of the reasons behind the AU were to accelerate the process of implementing the 1991 Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, in particular to:
· Shorten the implementation periods of economic integration, through free trade areas and common markets under the Abuja Treaty,
· Ensure the speedy establishment of all the institutions provided for in the Abuja Treaty; such as the African Central Bank, the African Monetary Union, the African Court of Justice and in particular, the Pan-African Parliament.
The OAU/AU political objectives have largely been achieved. However, African has not fully addressed sovereignty and territorial integrity issues, as evident in disputes in Western Sahara, DRC Congo, Sudan and South Sudan, Mali and others.
Economic development however, still remains elusive. A point frequently returned to during the World Economic Forum on Africa has been the inescapable fact that Africa’s economy will be shaped by its reserves of natural resources for the foreseeable future.
Introducing the 2013 Africa Progress Report, Kofi Annan and his colleagues said that Africa’s mineral wealth has the potential to transform the continent, but resource-rich countries are leaving their poor behind. He also hit out at “shady deals” between mining houses and countries.
Before the launch of the report, Annan was quoted as having some pretty stern words for those in the extractive industries, and in leadership positions. At the heart of this issue, he suggested, is a lack of transparency around production-sharing agreements and the sale of assets to foreign investors.
“No country better illustrates the high costs associated with opaque concession trading than the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” where “Privatization of the DRC’s minerals sector has been plagued by a culture of secrecy, informal deals and allegations of corruption”.
The report is at pains to state that they are not explicitly accusing political leaders, officials or the foreign companies involved of deliberately engaging in illegal activity – although they do suggest that investigation be carried out to determine whether or not the assets were “knowingly undervalued”. But in recent years, they note, other huge
losses in the sector have been incurred through a mixture of “poor management, corruption and flawed taxation policies”.
Up till now, however, there has been limited success in using mineral wealth to transform societies. The report makes clear that many resource-rich countries are leaving the poor behind. One particular damaging statistic is that nine of the 12 countries at the very bottom of the Human Development Index are rich in resources. The DRC, Chad, Mozambique and Niger all feature in the bottom 5.
There are also countries – Mali, Niger and Tanzania – which the IMF classifies as “resource-intensive”, and yet still depend on foreign aid for at least 10% of their GNI. Other countries have seen their dependence on aid fall over the last decade as a result of natural resource revenues: oil exporters like Angola fall within this category.
Most successful industrial countries trade with their neighbours. The European Union’s intra-regional trade is 70.6%, high compared to other regions. North America’s intra-regional trade flow is 48.33% and Asia’s 52.8%. So European countries do more trade with each other than with countries outside the EU region. The same is true with China and Japan, South Korea and Malaysia and the US with its neighbours, Canada and Mexico.
In the main, however, African countries do not trade with each other. Intra regional trade is no more than 13%. This has the effect of marginalising Africa in international trade and indicates the absence of indigenous industrialists in Africa and the domination of multinationals.
SA’s main trading partners are China, Germany, US, UK and Saudi Arabia. It is not clear why SA buys a large portion of her oil from Middle East whist there is oil in Angola and Nigeria. The small share of regional trade means that all inputs SA needs will have to be imported from outside Africa. As a result it will be difficult for SA to prosper in a sea of misery and poverty.
Today regional integration in Africa is not based on solidarity, mutual benefits and development, but on private-sector profiteering. This is why the priority of African countries’ regional integration agenda is about non payment of trade taxes or tariffs, rather than building hospitals, science and technology laboratories, and the clothing and textile industry.
The principle of “An African solution to an African problem” has not been applied in practice. The regime-change projects by former colonisers and imperialists indicate that solutions to African countries’ socio economic and political challenges are still imposed from the outside.
We cannot celebrate Africa day in the absence of justice for Africans. What is lacking is accountability of former colonies for their actions or omissions during the colonial era. The British government has not atoned for its violation of human rights and land dispossession in Africa, in particular in South Africa.
The Native Lands Act of 1913 was passed with the blessing of the King. It made it legally possible for Africans to become servants or slaves on their own land. The devastating results of this land dispossession continue to felt today in the form of high unemployment rate, poverty and inequality.
The recent success by Kenya’s Mau-Mau in suing the British government should encourage other African countries to sue the British government and other colonisers in court for damages arising from their colonisation project.
Now Britain has just cut aid to SA by £19 million pounds (R264m) a year. This should be condemned because the British Empire’s colonisation of SA resulted in the current socioeconomic challenges in SA and some of its neighbours in SADC.
The non-resolution of the Congo political impasse shows that it would be premature to celebrate Africa Day. It is estimated that more than 6.9 million Congolese have been killed since 1996.
The recent report by an expert panel led by Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, released during the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Cape Town in May is extremely damning. It finds that the DRC lost at least $1, 36 billion in revenues between 2010 and 2012 by under-pricing mining assets sold to foreign companies.
It calculates that each DRC citizen, in a country of 67 million, lost the equivalent of $21 from these deals. Because the offshore companies managed to snap up the assets at such a steal – $275 million – their rate of return on these deals was on average 512 %, and as high as 980% in one deal. Those are profits which would have been warmly welcomed in a country that ranks lowest of all on the Human Development Index, measuring wealth, life expectancy and education.
The report highlights some puzzling details. For instance ENRC, a London-listed Kazakh mining firm, waived its rights to buy out a stake in a mining enterprise owned by Gécamines, Congo’s state miner, only to acquire it for $75m from a company owned by Dan Gertler, an Israeli businessman, which had paid $15m for it just months earlier. Mr Gertler is close to Joseph Kabila, Congo’s president. ENRC, which is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office in Britain, was Congo’s third-largest copper producer last year. Both ENRC and Mr Gertler deny wrongdoing.
Last year miners in Congo, including Freeport-McMoran and Glencore Xstrata, shipped $6.7 billion-worth of copper and cobalt from the country.
It is an injustice that despite the use of DRC Congo’s minerals such as coltan in electronic devices such as Apple’s iPod and Nokia’s mobile phones, the Congolese continue to live in poverty.
According to the US Geological Survey Congo possesses more than 64% of the world’s coltan reserves and an estimated $24 trillion worth of untapped raw mineral deposits, yet currently there are no trade laws to trace and certify the origin of coltan that is used in electronic devices. It is highly possible that some of it used in cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices have their origin in Congo.
The fact that more than 50% of the AU’s budget comes from imperialist countries such as the US, EU countries and Japan means that African countries cannot determine the AU’s agenda.
The AU budget for 2013 amounts to just $278 226 million. Out of $160 million set aside for programs, more than 96% will be financed by the institution’s global partners. $122 million will be paid by members and $155 million is earmarked for programs by imperialists.
China built the new AU offices and Germany is paying for the AU Peace and Security building. A continent which is economically and financially dependent on other countries, whether former colonisers or not, will remain a junior partner in international affairs.
Instead of celebrating, Africa should reflect on the challenges posed by suffering, exploitation and theft of natural resources by imperialists and their multinationals.
COSATU is proud to be part of the moment of truth for our continent and its people, united in action against colonialism, imperialism and systemic underdevelopment. It is for this reason that we, with workers all over the continent, pause for a minute to examine and critically reflect on the significance of the birth of the continental premier body and the future of our determined struggle for development, democracy and human dignity for all our people, on the continent and beyond.
Africa has been able to make all these strides, because of the political will and massive sacrifices by its peoples – the liberation movements and the working class – for the ultimate liquidation of colonialism and for freedom from ongoing poverty and hunger. The impetus given by various initiatives to the liberation efforts on the continent, including the Lusaka Manifesto of 1969, the OAU liberation Committee and the global anti-apartheid movement cannot go unnoticed.
The same will be required if we are to turn the tide in our determined struggles for democracy, people-centred development and a new society in which accountability, transparency and public participation in policy development are the core features.
That is why we must intensify our solidarity with:
· The fighting peoples of Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation,
· Zimbabwe for democracy and freedom from state terror and for free and fair elections in line with the GPA package of reforms,
· Swaziland for freedom from the reign of terror by a monarchy regime and for multiparty democracy,
· Somalia from savage attacks and grinding hunger,
· DRC from looting and war by forces of varying interests as case in point.
Therefore, on Africa Day, Africa has little to celebrate and should be taking stock of its shortcomings and measures to overcome these shortcomings. It should be about highlighting the untold suffering and looting of natural resources by imperialists and their multinationals in war torn Africa countries.
Human rights struggles should be linked to developmental struggles for human dignity. No freedom is meaningful without control of our natural resources, food security and jobs for all.
Our struggle for workers rights, democracy and popular sovereignty is not separate from that which is about the transformation of the whole continent from being a raw material supplier to advanced metropolitan countries to a manufacturer of finished and value-added goods, leading to changing global power relations and the international trade and division of labour system as a whole.
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)