THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ANTI-BLACK RACISM BLACK PEOPLE HAVE TO DEAL WITH

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This post is basically a rundown of the different types of racism that Black people routinely face over the course of our lives. I think it’s important to be aware of the different nuances modern racism has, especially as a black person, otherwise it may be getting in your way and you may not even be aware of what the problem is and thus can’t tackle it. Of course this is not the ONLY type of racism that exists, there are clearly other types of racism that are just as problematic. However, I cannot speak from the perspective of other races so I’ll focus on mine. I’m sure some people may find this post controversial, but such is life.

  1. Racism from white, self-proclaimed racists

This is the easiest and, in my opinion, most preferred type of racism to have to deal with (if that is possible), simply because it is unhidden and direct. Give me a man who calls me a nigger monkey and I’ll know to: 1) ignore him and move on, 2) laugh it off or, 3) tell him to go back where he came from (clearly this only works if you’re not in Europe, whether it’s relevant in North America can be debated). These folks are so extreme and foolish, that there is a band of white supremacists in South Africa essentially calling us the dirt of the earth and claiming South Africa as ‘theirs’ (Click this link if you think I’m joking http://youtu.be/BFWEtdZ5TWA). My question to them simply is: Why don’t you leave and go back to the land of your ancestors? There you will find an oasis of active white supremacists groups forming fringe political parties. Leave us ‘niggers’ in Africa. Nigger, the etymology of which can ironically be traced back to the word Negus, ‘King’ in Amharic (one of many interpretations, but one of the many reasons I don’t find the term offensive). Perhaps as an African in sub-Saharan Africa I know such extreme racists are few and far between here and thus do not really present a threat to my welfare or that of my loved ones. Either way, this is one form of racism blacks have to deal with. And just to make it clear, I am of the firm position that if you are in sub-Saharan Africa and you openly hate black people, you shouldn’t be here. I do not believe that we should ‘work with the racists’ and begin dialogue with them to try and change their view point and essentially beg them to see us as humans too. Absolutely not. If you’re in ‘Black Africa’ and hate blacks, leave. The world is very big.

2.       Liberal white racism- The White Saviour Complex

This has to be, genuinely, the most irritating type of racism I have had the misfortune of confronting…and the most difficult to describe so this will be a little lengthy. In the context of this conversation, white liberals with a Saviour Complex are typically politically ‘liberal’ white EuroAmericans who are often working for some form of social development organisation that seeks to help ‘develop’ Africa. The organisation either works in EuroAmerica for marginalised people in Africa or, even better, works IN Africa with the Africans ‘for Africa’. Ok, what’s so irritating about that? Well, the basic problem is that there tends to be (this is NOT a blanket statement) an underlying feeling of superiority held by some white liberals that essentially makes them view Africans as defenceless little victimised natives who desperately need the help of the ‘all knowing white’, to save them from themselves and the deplorable situation they’ve created on the continent. If that isn’t the issue, there tends to be this assumption (and this is especially present in international NGOs who work in Africa but have HQs in EuroAmerica) that the Africans in the country office, ‘don’t quite understand how things work in this world so we need to guide and direct them to make sure they don’t get too confused or lost’. What I’m saying is that at the foundation of this seemingly altruistic motive to ‘help Africa’ is a feeling that they, the white liberal, are essentially superior and are able to better understand what’s ‘really going on’ and can therefore be of more use to Africa than even the most seasoned African NGO professional ever could be. And it seems to be a pervasive notion because STILL, to this day, when a statement/comment is needed by a ‘development expert on Africa’ for international news channels, the news channels tend to run to the white NGO worker and not the Black African one. There is a general unspoken assumption that, despite the fact that there are Africans working in Africa to improve Africa, the person who will know the ‘real deal’ is NOT a black African but a white person. And quite frankly it does not matter that this is not the reality white liberals may want to exist, it does exist. I am yet to see a white liberal step down from being called an ‘expert on Africa’ even after having only spent a year or two in any given African country. This may be because, in my opinion, there IS a racist undertone that makes them view Africans as simplistic beings that can be easily understood and who need guidance to manoeuvre through the horrible continental problems they created for themselves. Either that, or they view Africa as a continent that can be quickly understood and thus one that can be easily fixed- but only by them. KONY 2012 exemplifies the latter. These White Saviour complex ‘do-gooders’, made people think that you can understand Uganda, and indeed Africa, in a flick that runs for a couple of minutes. It is insulting to see such banal oversimplification that feeds this voracious need for the White Saviour-Complexed individual to hop right in to Africa and ‘fix’ Africa because clearly the Africans can’t do it by themselves. Again, I do not think every single white person working in Africa is like this but I have seen this type of racism having worked in the NGO sector in Kenya myself. I know I’ll probably get responses on this point that state that ‘well at least they’re trying to help’ or ‘You should be happy they even come to Africa because Africa needs all the help it can get’ but quite frankly I think otherwise. I think if any EuroAmerican is under the illusion that their intentions and presence alone can ‘transform Africa’, then they view us as nothing more than primitive cavemen bashing our heads on the cave wall as the continent burns around us.

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3.       Hipster racism

This is the ‘I’m gonna say racist things even though I know better and shouldn’t be doing this’ type of racism. And any racist comment that takes that ‘badass, in your face, now what?’ type of tone is really hard to deal with because one is never sure whether the person who uttered the statement meant it or not. So now you’re caught in no man’s land unsure of whether to laugh off the racist comment as a joke or take offense and get real serious. It’s a cess pool of trouble because of the numerous nuanced interpretations hipster racist comments can have. This makes it a really messy type of racism to deal with because after making the racist comment, the person can comeback with, ‘I was only joking, lighten up’, which then paints you as a hypersensitive angry black person who can’t even take a joke. Blegh!

4.       Anti-black racism from people of colour

I find it HILARIOUS when a person of colour says ‘I can’t be racist, cause I’m (fill in the blank with a nation of colour)’. Really? How did you figure that? In Africa, Africans are very aware of the anti-black racism some members of the Arab and Asian communities can have towards us. It’s not a secret at all. But sadly that does not mean it’s being addressed. There are plenty of stories of how Black Africans who work for Asians or Arabs are treated like scum, routinely disrespected, essentially treated as less than human. Of course this is not to say this is the situation ALL the time, but it does raise a fair concern blacks have especially given that they’re living in their own country.  In fact to this day (in Kenya), black Africans do not truly mix freely with Asian and Arab communities and people just seem to accept that, well, that’s how it is. Add to this that, even in the 21st century, it is still an issue if Black Africans inter-marry with these communities, pointing to the depth of the problem. The sad reality however is that no one wants to talk about it and thus it will probably remain one of the biggest thorns in the side of making Africa a truly unified multiethnic continent where all races genuinely see themselves as equal to, not better than, each other.

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5.       Anti-black racism from blacks

This BY FAR is the most perplexing type of racism I have ever come across. Of course I shouldn’t be shocked because as a black person it’s pretty obvious that centuries of anti-black racism have taken a toll on black people to the point that some of us have such deep self-loathing we can barely stand ourselves or other blacks. The extent to which sub-Saharan Africans can nitpick to prove that they aren’t ‘really’ black or ‘less black’ than other blacks is genuinely just a gaddam shame. But I tell you this, the only place I have ever been called a ‘black African monkey’, is in Africa itself. In Africa itself, by a fellow African. Now I’m Bantu and the person who called me that is a Cushite so I have a darker complexion, but the point remains that we’re still both regarded as Black Africans. Flabbergasted much? But it speaks to our truth that eons of racism have affected our collective self image to the extent that we’d rather spew anti-black racist insults at each other than stand united against racism. It will be a long journey to recovery on this one as a people. Image

So there you have it, did I miss any out?

KONY 2012: Is the Saviour Complex being used as a precursor to invade Uganda?

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KONY 2012. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days you should be well aware of the viral video made by Invisible Children (IC) to ‘make Kony famous’ so as to get him indicted and charged at the International Criminal Courts for crimes against humanity. Now don’t get me wrong, Kony is an awful man, I agree. Indeed I think the fact that everyone agrees that Kony is a bestial man that ought to be brought to justice is what makes IC’s agenda so effective.

In my opinion the bottom line is that IC are part of a process that pits the Ugandan Army (helped by the USA) against Kony rebels, in an area in Uganda in which (coincidentally) significant oil reserves were recently discovered (2006), ‘Oil experts estimate Uganda’s Albertine Basin has about 2.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil, positioning Uganda to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top oil producers’[1]. What is particularly interesting is that, ‘significant deposits of oil in the Western part of the country are close to LRA-active regions of the DRC’[2]. So we do have cause to raise our eyebrows and wonder when, in 2011, President Obama authorized USA troops to enter Uganda and work with the Ugandan government to help them, among other things, find Kony. It is nonetheless, important to note in all this that a, ‘WikiLeaks cable (dated March 13, 2008) describes a request by the Ugandan government to the US government “for assistance to train and equip a lake security force which could enforce Uganda’s territorial waters, protect Uganda’s oil assets, and reduce violent incidents.”’ [3] However the fact that the US government decided to respond and act in 2011 may be informed by the fact that there is oil in the very areas in which Kony has traditionally been active and thus need ‘protection’.

Uganda Oil Field Map

But let’s get to the heart of the issue and how IC fits into all of this. IC’s video and entire agenda is fuelled by what I call the Saviour Complex. This is a complex where well-meaning people, predominantly from EuroAmerica, troop to Africa to ‘help the natives’ improve their standard of living and generally assist the ‘poor Black Africans’ to create more dignified lives for themselves. Yes I’m being provocative in how I describe the Saviour Complex because I feel a sense of cultural superiority and self-aggrandisement is the root of the Saviour Complex. In spite of this, Africa is expected to accommodate those with the Saviour Complex because, after all, these people have left their comfortable lives in EuroAmerica to come and sweat it out in poverty stricken and even violent and remote African locales and thus should be thanked for their generous altruism. Africa is expected to accommodate those with the Saviour Complex because they have good intentions…whether or not they do anything of true value to Africa is a topic for another day but essentially, as an African, I’m expected to either be elated that they’re here, or, at the very least, bite my tongue and smile at their efforts. Let me bring myself back from that tangent and focus on how the Saviour Complex fits into what could be construed to be a US Foreign policy agenda- establishing control over the oil rich areas of Uganda. So, Kony goes viral, and an organisation with the Saviour Complex sees itself as essentially the only way that Kony can be found and brought to justice.[4] What is truly sinister in all this is that I think IC’s Saviour Complex is a vehicle of legitimizing the welcome of the US Army into Uganda by Ugandans and the world, in an area that is of crucial strategic importance to Uganda’s economic future. This Saviour Complex held by IC and its sympathizers is giving everyone the impression that the USA is well intended and genuinely interested in catching a man whom everyone views to be heinous and is committed to helping Uganda. This is a very effective foreign policy strategy because it is a new twist or perhaps a precursor to some form of ‘liberation invasion’ of Northern Ugandan in areas that just happen to be situated on massive oil fields. And therein lies the reality that many in EuroAmerica who view themselves as liberals on the ‘left’ fail to understand. A mentality that, on a conscious level, seems to be interested in justice and equality, may be, on an subconscious level, more interested in self- aggrandisement and prejudiced oversimplification of other cultures, and thus can be used to do the very opposite that the conscious self believes it wants. The liberal left and those who are victim to the Saviour Complex (of course not everyone is), may very well be part of strategy to ‘liberate’ Uganda of Kony and his rebels and, with the US’s help of course, ‘stabilise’ the regions that are coincidentally located over oil reserves. So their mentality may actually be delivering Ugandan oil and people to the control of a greedy superpower and its linked multinationals and conglomerates that may end up exploiting the very region that the liberal lefties wanted ‘delivered from evil’ in the first place. What’s so funny about this whole thing however is that Kony may not be in Uganda, especially in the areas in which US troops have been deployed. The last we heard of Kony and his rebels, they were not in Uganda but rather had, ‘regrouped in Uganda’s neighboring countries, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo’[5]. But alas, who cares anyway. Kony 2012 makes EuroAmerica feel good and just imagine, by buying a couple of posters and a bracelet, YOU, my friend, are part of the process of hunting a man down who’s location is not known…how very useful. This is but one of the criticisms against IC and KONY 2012 agenda. For more see http://ericswanderings.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/a-ugandan-acholi-perpective-on-joseph-kony-and-stop-kony-2012/

Ciao and kisses.

[1] Uganda, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2963.htm

[2] Kersten, Marl (2011), US Sends 100 Troops to Uganda to Hunt Kony: Some Thoughts http://justiceinconflict.org/2011/10/16/us-sends-100-troops-to-uganda-to-hunt-kony-some-thoughts/

[3] Kersten, Marl (2011), US Sends 100 Troops to Uganda to Hunt Kony: Some Thoughts, http://justiceinconflict.org/2011/10/16/us-sends-100-troops-to-uganda-to-hunt-kony-some-thoughts/

[4] Please note at NO POINT during the video was there mention of other ongoing local and international efforts to catch Kony. The video presented IC as the ONLY way Kony can be caught.

[5] Joseph Kony (2012) http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/joseph_kony/index.html

EMPIRE BUILDING: THE FOUR Ms

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The world is in a constant state of flux when it comes to the rise and decline of empires. As we live our lives one empire’s crumbling while another seeks to rise…and that’s where we are right now in history. We are in the process of seeing one world order slowly crumble (EuroAmerica, which particular domination of the USA) and the rise of another (Asia, particularly China).

 

WHAT IS AN EMPIRE?

In the traditional sense of the word, the term empire means. ‘a geographically extensive group of states and peoples united and ruled either by a monarch (emperor, empress) or an oligarchy.’[1]

However in the modern sense the term empire has come to mean several things such as denoting, ‘a large-scale business enterprise (e.g. a transnational corporation), or a political organisation of either national-, regional- or city scale, controlled either by a person (a political boss) or a group authority’

In this piece I draw on the more amorphous and modern definition and specifically views empire as a conglomeration of a nation’s financial, military and political influence on different regions of the globe. Specifically empire building refers to, ‘the tendency of countries and nations to acquire resources, land, and economic influence outside of their borders in order to expand their size, power, and wealth’[2].

 

WHAT CONSTITUTES THE MODERN EMPIRE? THE FOUR Ms

I posit that there are Four Ms that define the modern empire and it is along these lines the decline of the US empire and the rise of China’s can be measured and analysed.

Money

For an empire to truly have global reach and influence, money is crucial in order to make investments, influence decisions, expand consumer markets et cetera. And yes, at the moment the USA is the world largest economy BUT, ‘According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016’[3]. Measured in dollars, China, ‘is projected to projects to grow to $18.98tn in 2016, putting the US in second place at $18.81tn’[4]. This is significant because, ‘Just 10 years ago, the U.S. economy was three times the size of China’s’[5]. China has been the world fastest growing economy for the past 30 years, and seems set to continue on that trajectory for some time yet. So there is a definite shift on who has the money…and the power that comes with it.

Military

This is a tricky one because, ‘China’s military future is not a secret it keeps from the world- it is a mystery even to those inside the country’[6]. That said, for policy makers in the US, ‘Of particular concern is the strength of Chinese military power and its relation to U.S. military capability’[7]. This concern may be rooted in the on-going modernisation of China’s military and the fact that ‘in years to come China will continue to develop its military power parallel to its growing economic and political power’[8].

However although, the United States, ‘has the edge in maritime, aerospace, and technological dimensions of military power’, it cannot be assumed that this will be the case indefinitely. Even from a layman perspective, the debacles of the US military in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan and the challenges its military intelligence system seems to have in gathering information on groups such as Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab has truly made me reconsider what I once thought was US military invincibility. This is in comparison to a changing dynamic where, the world is, ‘at a point now where for the first time China has accrued operational capability to project force further out from their shores and in their airspace than ever before’[9]. Further, it seems to be coming clear that, ‘Chinese military leaders believe they are a global economic power, and must create a military to protect their interests’[10]. So bear in mind that despite the current very clear superiority of the US military forces and capabilities, China is still in a position where it can and indeed plans to, ‘exploit vulnerabilities in key US capabilities using counter-space, counter-carrier, counter-air, and information warfare to prevent the United States from dominating a military confrontation or achieving quick and easy victory’[11]. China is, after all, a nuclear power. Also bear in mind the fact that the sentiments between the USA and China are not particularly amicable despite their continued economic engagement. Spats on currency devaluation, tariffs, pollution, Taiwan and North Korea regularly rear their ugly heads when these two powers engage. It will be interesting to see how the USA and the world changes and responds to increasingly dominant Chinese military power and presence on the globe.

 

Map: Geopolitical influence

How far does your country’s map extend? It simply cannot be denied that on a global scale, China is a seriously huge force to reckon with, especially in economic (and increasingly political) terms. With the growth of the Chinese pocket there is a growth in which parts of the world are coming under the ‘Chinese Map’. Africa, clearly, is among the regions on which the PRC has stamped its imprint…and seems set to continue to do so. Of course linked to geopolitical influence is money and in that light ‘China’s OFDI (outward FDI) has risen 19 fold since 2000’ clearly signaling an outward looking perspective and the concurrent need to maintain the success of these investments [12].  Bear in mind that China’s OFDI is, ‘dominated by state-owned enterprises (SOEs)… All of the ten largest Chinese multinational enterprises by OFDI stock are SOEs’[13]. Therefore in China’s cause, unlike the US, there is direct vested political risk and interest in ensuring the money invested makes more money…and the resources of the state are at the SOEs’ disposal to ensure this happens if needed. This means that political and economic expansions of influence by China are even more closely tied than usual. What is interesting about China’s growing geopolitical influence is that fact that it unabashedly sups with so-called ‘rogues regimes’ such as those of Sudan, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Burma. Who cares if EuroAmerica doesn’t like these regimes, China has the power and geopolitical influence to do as it deems most strategic. Gone are the days of proxy wars fought between Communism and Capitalism on foreign land for control. ‘Communist’ China is moving onto EuroAmerica’s turf and engaging in business with regimes some view as criminal- and the USA cannot really tell China to stop. Ironically it seems like China is now the one in a position to instruct the USA if the Daily Mail’s article titled, ‘Russia and China warn America against Iran strike‘ is anything to go by…my my my how times change.

For Africa this is especially significant given the traditional and seemingly absolute dominance of EuroAmerica on the continent. China is spreading its tentacles all the way over here such that, ‘Influence in Africa is no longer the domain of Western countries…the competition for influence in Africa is changing. Africa has more choices, alternatives…[Africa] now has alternatives to western pressure: that is China’[14].

Mien: Patriotism/ Nationalism

A Patriotic or Nationalistic mien is crucial for empire building. After all, without the love for and devotion to one’s country, how would expansion of the nation’s influence be rooted in domestic support for it? Indeed patriotism allows nations to invade other nations, take over resources and kill people if it means the home nation will prosper. US patriotism may be why so many Americans seem to be able to tolerate the US’s pillaging and destruction of Iraq, ongoing forays into Afghanistan and now threats to enter Iran as well. Patriotism is an interesting beast, of which China has plenty. China’s communist tradition that started in 1949 is one that has been drumming patriotism into the Chinese mind ever since. It can be argued that under Communism holidays were synonymous with the glorification of the Communist state, its leader and the whipping up of nationalistic sentiment. Clearly not every single Chinese person is patriotic but it is interesting to note that, ‘in the post-Cold War upsurge of Chinese nationalism Chinese intellectuals became one of the driving forces. Many well-educated people-social scientists, humanities scholars, writers and other professionals-have given voice to and even become articulators for rising nationalistic discourse in the 1990s’[15]. As Chinese influence and power continue to expand around the globe, this patriotic mien will likely become an increasingly powerful role in establishing and maintaining domestic support for Chinese activities abroad (no matter how questionable).

THE IMPLICATIONS FOR AFRICA

The rising power of the Chinese empire has many implications for Africa as far as the four Ms are concerned.

Money

Africa is leaning towards and on China for investment and aid more and more. As a snapshot, ‘China has lent to developing countries more than the World Bank during last two years. The Chinese Development Bank and China Export-Import Bank have put out 110 billion US dollars, which are approximately 10 billion more than World Bank’[16]. Though just a drop in the ocean, this snapshot gives a clear indication of just how much things have changed for Africa with regard to who we can go to for money. Of course the point here is to ensure that African governments do not to make the same mistakes they did with EuroAmerican money, namely miring Africa in billions of dollars of debt and leaving Africa solidly at the bottom of the pile solely as a source for raw materials. Sadly thus far, it does seem that this trend is generally continuing in Sino-Africa economic relations. It is of urgent importance that African citizens keep an eye on Sino-African economic relations to ensure Africa really does get better deals this time around.

Military

The brutal truth is that establishing military presence and indeed dominance around the world is an important aspect of empire building. Though Africans are aware of and have largely acquiesced to the presence of EuroAmerican military presence and bases, much less focus has been put on what China is doing in Africa from a military perspective. This is interesting despite the fact that, ‘China’s military relations with Africa stretches back to 1950s when China gave its support to for revolutionary and independence movements in Africa’[17]. Despite this, ‘China’s military involvement in Africa are passing with minimal scholarly attention, yet needing examination’[18]. This lack of focus may create the impression that China’s military is not really a big deal for Africa but let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that the Chinese are doing nothing, ‘Little by little China is forming military links in Africa and in the Indian Ocean in order, experts say, to protect Beijing’s economic interests in the region‘[19]. Indeed, ‘China currently has military alliances with 6 African states, 4 of which are major oil suppliers’[20]. China’s military presence in Africa is twofold. The first is more positive where, for example, the Chinese military has joined UN peace-keeping responsibilities on the continent[21]. In addition to this China is, ‘conducting high-level and technological military cooperation and exchanges, training African military personnel and supporting defense and army building in African countries’[22]. Further, Chinese military forces and police assist Africa in, ‘non-traditional missions, such as combating terrorism, small-arms smuggling, drug trafficking and transnational economic crimes’. These can be seen to be done in line with, ‘Beijing’s Africa strategy to promote China’s economic (resource access and trade) and political (one-China recognition) interests …to support overall peace and security for its interests in Africa’[23].

However, the second type of Chinese military activity in Africa is more ominous where, ‘To meet its oil and mineral needs, Beijing has consistently delivered arms to pariah states in Africa especially the conflict-torn zones which have come under western sanctions and United Nations’ embargo, in their attempt to address the horrendous massacre and genocidal killings that have characterized the politics of those areas…China has been implicated in the proliferation of arms in Africa which either provoke conflicts or exacerbate the existing ones’[24]. Indeed, ‘Because of strategic interests, China is enmeshed in cutting deals with bad governments and providing them with arms… Arms sales and military relationships help China gain important African allies in the United Nations—including Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria—for its political goals, including preventing Taiwanese independence and diverting attention from its own human rights record’[25] As a continent that has been war-ridden for decades, such subversive military activities which compromise the creation of a peaceful Africa should be unequivocally rejected and stopped by Pan-African institutions such as the African Union.

In short when it comes to Chinese military power, when it is used to propel China’s interests over Africa’s on the continent such action needs to be widely published and critiqued by Africans. Sadly, there seems to be a sense of obliviousness when it comes to Chinese military activity on the continent thereby essentially giving China’s military free reign to continue to make strategic in-roads into the continent. This should be a point of serious concern for Africa for should it continue, Africa will be in serious trouble. This is not only because Africa will find itself beholden to Chinese interests on the continent, Africa may become a ground where proxy wars between China and rival powers occur for the control of vital resources and influence in Africa[26].

Map

Rising Chinese geopolitical influence on the continent is such a reality that I, as an African have begun to think of what Africa will look like when 1st generation Chinese-Africans are born on the continent. For with growing geopolitical influence comes growing migration of China to Africa, a phenomenon hard to track because of , ‘lax immigration policies, poor tracking mechanisms, as well as corruption in many African countries allowing for high levels of illegal migration’[27]. That said, ‘Total estimates range from around 580 000 to over 800 000 Chinese on the African continent’[28]. Although not all of these are in Africa to stay some are, and as Chinese immigrant numbers continue to rise, Africa will have to increasingly grapple with integrating Chinese immigrants into African society. In addition to migration-related growth of Chinese geopolitical influence in Africa is, of course, China’s growing economic and military presence in Africa which seems set to continue with significant momentum. With growing influence will come reactions from African themselves on how they feel about Chinese geopolitical presence in Africa. However, an interesting point to note is that, perhaps due to the language barrier, Chinese culture (beyond Chinese food) has not really crossed over into Africa. Africans still do not feel the need to learn Mandarin, do not follow Chinese media coverage of Africa and are not generally as interested in China as they are in EuroAmerica. That said, it can be argued that given the nascent nature of the rise of China, it will take time for Chinese culture to truly embed itself into African society….I think it’s only a matter of time before Chinese culture is more clearly felt in Africa.

Mien

What impact will Chinese patriotism have on Africa? This one is difficult to answer since the effects of amorphous phenomena such as nationalism and patriotism can be difficult to measure and link their attribution to concrete real-life events. However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to surmise that, as China continues its march towards global dominance, Chinese patriotism will likely grow with it. This, in and of itself, need not be a negative occurrence for Africa only if Africa ensures that African interests dominate on the continent and are not trumped by Chinese economic, military and political power and related interests. If we Africans allow ourselves to act with the Chinese the way we have with EuroAmerica, Chinese patriotism will simply fuel yet another era of the continent being dominated by a foreign power.

In conclusion, let’s see how these four Ms play out in Sino-African relations and the rise of the Chinese empire…one thing I know is that I’m watching and perhaps we all should. We should watch and do what we can to take advantage of this emerging shift if global power dynamics so as to position Africa in the most optimum position possible.


[1] Definition ‘Empire’ (2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire

[4]  Weisbrot, Mark (2011), ‘2016: when China overtakes the US’, The Guardian,http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/apr/27/china-imf-economy-2016

[6] Carter, Ashton and Bulkeley, Jennifer (2007), ‘America’s strategic response to China’s military modernisation’, http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hapr/winter07_gov/carter.pdf

[7] Council of Foreign Relations (2003), ‘Chinese Military Power’, http://www.cfr.org/china/chinese-military-power/p5985

[8] Carter, Ashton and Bulkeley, Jennifer (2007), ‘America’s strategic response to China’s military modernisation’, http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hapr/winter07_gov/carter.pdf

[9] Bowman, Tom (2012), ‘As China’s Military Grows, U.S. Assesses Risks’, http://www.npr.org/2012/02/14/146883300/as-chinas-military-grows-u-s-assesses-risks

[10] Bowman, Tom (2012), ‘As China’s Military Grows, U.S. Assesses Risks’, http://www.npr.org/2012/02/14/146883300/as-chinas-military-grows-u-s-assesses-risks

[11] Carter, Ashton and Bulkeley, Jennifer (2007), ‘America’s strategic response to China’s military modernisation’, Http://Www.Hcs.Harvard.Edu/~Hapr/Winter07_Gov/Carter.Pdf

[12] OECD (2008), ‘ China’s Outward Foreign Direct Investment’, http://Www.OECD.Org/Dataoecd/28/10/40283257.Pdf

[13] OECD (2008), ‘ China’s Outward Foreign Direct Investment’, http://Www.OECD.Org/Dataoecd/28/10/40283257.Pdf

[14] Chen, Yali, (2006), Washington Observer Weekly, ‘China in the World: Geopolitical influence rising, sustainability unpredictable’ http://68.165.165.202/en/document.cfm?documentid=31&charid=3

[15] Wikipedia (2012), ‘Chinese Nationalism’, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_nationalism

[16] Fojtík, Petr (2011), ‘China’s Geopolitical Sphere of Influence in the Near Abroad’, http://www.ces.upol.cz/pic/item/pdffile/71.pdf

[17] Chuka, Enuka (2011), ‘China’s Military Presence in Africa: Implications for Continental Instability’, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1833542

[18] Chuka, Enuka (2011), ‘China’s Military Presence in Africa: Implications for Continental Instability’, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1833542

[19] Al Arabiya News (2011), ‘China beefing up military presence in Indian Ocean’, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/12/20/183584.html

[20] Wikipedia (2012), ‘Involvement of the People’s Republic of China in Africa’, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involvement_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China_in_Africa#Expansion_of_military_presence_.281990_to_the_present.29

[22] Puska, Susan (2007), ‘Military backs China’s Africa adventure’, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/china/if08ad02.html

[23] Puska, Susan (2007), ‘Military backs China’s Africa adventure’, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/china/if08ad02.html

[24] Chuka, Enuka (2011), ‘China’s Military Presence in Africa: Implications for Continental Instability’, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1833542

[25] Chuka, Enuka (2011), ‘China’s Military Presence in Africa: Implications for Continental Instability’, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1833542

[26] Tension between India and China are high especially with China’s new interest in building a military base in Seychelles. Further it has been reported that, ‘China has funded or plans to invest in several major infrastructure projects including ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma, in a policy described as a “string of pearls” with which to ‘choke’ India’. (The Telegraph (2011), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/seychelles/8953319/China-considers-Seychelles-military-base-plan.html)

[27] Park ,Yoon Jung (2009), ‘Chinese Migration in Africa’, China in Africa project, http://www.saiia.org.za/images/stories/pubs/occasional_papers/saia_sop_24_park_20090218_en.pdf

[28] Park ,Yoon Jung (2009), ‘Chinese Migration in Africa’, China in Africa project, http://www.saiia.org.za/images/stories/pubs/occasional_papers/saia_sop_24_park_20090218_en.pdf

MY (LIL’) RANT ON THE ‘ANTI-BRIC IN AFRICA’ STANCE BY EUROAMERICA

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EuroAmerica[i]…the long standing dominant and perhaps domineering ‘partner’ to Africa. At the moment, EuroAmerica is busy warning Africa on the dangers of getting too close and cosy with some of the BRIC economies (BRIC stands for Brazil Russia India China[ii]).  But what really makes me laugh about how MOST (not all) of EuroAmerica is responding to the rise of the BRIC in Africa is what I think are the preposterous notions that: 1) Africans are not aware of the new forces coming into Africa, and 2) EuroAmerica suddenly has Africa’s well-being etched in their heart and feel the need to warn and protect us from these new ‘ominous’ players….riiiiggghhhht.

So let me expand on these two points and a couple of others on why I’m having serious concerns with (and serious laughs over) how EuroAmerica is trying to make Africa horribly xenophobic to the BRIC in Africa[iii]. There are several levels to what EuroAmerica is doing and the related implications:

The rampant use of weighted terms like ‘colonial’ and ‘invasion’ when describing the activities of BRIC forces in Africa

It has come to my attention that EuroAmerica has a propensity for using certain terms when describing the presence of BRIC nations in Africa. Hilary Clinton is busy chastising China on its ‘new colonialism in Africa’ while David Cameron warns us of the ‘Chinese invasion’[iv] [v].  There are articles titled, ‘China: Africa’s New Colonial Power’ and other such gloomy titles’[vi]. And China’s not the only power getting slack, India is being labelled ‘neocolonial’ despite the fact that Indians have been on the continent for decades[vii]. Brazil is getting targeted because of its ‘immoral and perverse’ biofuel agenda in Africa[viii]. But what’s missing here? Oh yes that’s it, EuroAmerica is basically doing the same kind of stuff as the BRICs are but it isn’t labelling ITSELF with any of these terms. Why the selective amnesia my friends? Instead of bashing them perhaps EuroAmerica should be figuring out how to work with some of the BRIC nations so that they too can get involved in and benefit from the new momentum and related deals the BRIC are generating in Africa[ix].

The problematic distortion of the use of term ‘colonial’ by EuroAmerica when describing activities between Africa and the BRICs

Linked to the point above, let me highlight an even more serious reason as to why Africans should REJECT the use of such terms, especially the term ‘colonial’, when EuroAmerica describes the actions of BRIC nations in Africa. The use of the term colonial to describe what the BRIC are doing in Africa is changing the meaning of the term[x]. The BRIC are not ‘colonising’ Africa. Have we forgotten how bestial and horrific colonialism was? Have we forgotten Leopold’s Congo? Have we forgotten how brutal the British were in Africa? For those who have, I recommend you read ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’ and ‘Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya’. We are not being ‘colonised’ by China or India or Brazil or any other foreign power currently on African soil. We are not being colonised because they are not beating us, shooting us, raping our women, decapitating us, chopping off our arms, putting us in reserves, castrating us, calling us inferior, murdering us, hunting us down and all the other horrors that the real colonialists did to us. Calling these new powers ‘colonial’ is xenophobic and erases the horrific memory of what colonialism was really like. For heaven’s sake we stood up against the colonialists and died to liberate our nations from them. Calling BRIC activities in Africa ‘colonial’ is not only, 1) erasing the memory of the horrors of colonialism, it is also, 2) belittling the brave acts of our freedom fighters that drove the colonialists out. (RIP Dedan Kimathi and all freedom fighters).

The EuroAmerican notion that Africans ‘don’t really know what’s going on and we need to warn them’

It seems that imbued in all these EuroAmerican warnings  about the ‘new kids on the bloc (or is it BRIC :-p)’  is the basic assumption that Africans: 1) need to be told what’s going on 2)need to be told how to perceive what’s going and 3) need to be told how to react to what’s going on. It’s the same old bigoted and patronising ‘talking down to’ that Africa has been subjected to by EuroAmerica for decades. It seems like EuroAmerica is certain that Africa doesn’t truly realise the full implications and consequences of interacting with these economic powers in the emerging economic order. So what do we ‘clueless’ Africans need? We need to be guided through this miasmic maze by the ‘blessed altruistic hands’ of EuroAmerican media and government….(guffaw) but this leads to the next point.

 

The EuroAmerican notion that Africa should suddenly view them as benevolent powers which don’t have self-interest at heart… but the BRIC do

EuroAmerica, I think, wants us to listen to their BRIC-related warnings because they think it is ‘good for Africa’. So it seems that Africa is being urged to listen to Euro-America because they want to ‘help’ us….(chuckle).  Ok even if I accept that, I don’t understand why the entry of the BRIC is seen as a problem from an economic point of view. Surely EuroAmerican capitalistic thinking would argue that the entry of the BRIC in Africa is great. Isn’t fierce competition what free markets are all about?! Doesn’t a monopoly of any power(s) over any market make it function less efficiently?  But it seems like now that the BRIC block is strolling into Africa with gusto, ambition, determination and (God-forbid) real money, we Africans are being told we should reject this! Huh? We’re being told, ‘no no no, THEIR money isn’t good for you but OUR money is’…Really?! Why? Are we not fulfilling the EuroAmerican neoclassical economic dream of healthy competition, open markets and buoyant buying and selling? But no, disregard that argument we’re being told by EuroAmerica…stay close to your ‘old’ economic partners, beware of these ‘new’ ones because they’re up to no good. But what they forget is that Africans governments are probably using the BRIC to counter the dominance of EuroAmerica on the continent in the first place! You will likely find that many Africans do not believe EuroAmerica, or any other power for that matter, has Africa’s well-being at heart. Self-interest rules and I think many on the continent are aware of this. So EuroAmerica can stop with the warnings because they come, not from a heart full of altruism and love, but from a heart full of fear and perhaps jealousy, backed by self-interest.

BUT….

But ‘NO’ I can hear some of you say…All these new powers coming into Africa ARE making things worse for Africans so we should (at worst) chase them away or (at best) be hiiiiighly sceptical of their going-ons on the continent. After all look at China, (HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSERS I hear you say), they’re basically bolstering Mugabe’s horrific dictation in Zimbabwe. China essentially assisted Al-Bashir’s tyrannical rule over what is now South Sudan. We need to be careful, I hear some Africans say…and you know you what, on some level, you’re right. BUT we should be careful not only of what the new economic players are doing in Africa, we should be wary of ALL of them. That is the only logical conclusion to the argument. Because if we’re going to start tabulating all the negative things that China’s interaction with Africa is having on Africa, then we should do the same for EuroAmerica…and that goes way back to the slave trade and colonialism if you’re counting.

OH THE IRONY…

However, the irony of this whole situation is two-fold: First is that this scrutiny of the BRIC’s activities in Africa is actually holding them up to a higher standard than EuroAmerica was ever held up to when they first came to Africa. During the Berlin Conference when certain European powers carved Africa up among themselves, there was no loud noise from the side-lines telling them to stop or warning Africa of the impending doom and gloom that the partitioning would lead to. During colonialism itself, EuroAmerican governments and media were not berating the colonial entrepreneurs on the negative effects colonialism was having on Africa. No one was holding them up to high moral or human rights standard, quite the contrary. But juxtapose this with what is currently happening with EuroAmerica’s use of a ‘moral lens’ when assessing BRIC activity in Africa. The BRIC are being held up to certain moral and human rights standards by the very powers who trampled all over these standards during their earlier activities on the continent.

The second irony needs a bit of a preface, so here is the preface: Let us say, for the sake of argument, that the way the BRIC are engaging in Africa is truly negative, horrific, unacceptable and should be stopped immediately (end preface). You can argue that the rise of all modern economic powers was built on negativity, exploitation and injustice so the BRICs are just following an age-old pattern. Look at the wealth the slave trade brought to the Americas. Yes, the slave trade was horrendous but it made a lot of money (that’s a very crass way to look at it but it has to be done sometimes). Look at how much money some American entrepreneurs made from centuries of essentially free labour. Yes, colonialism was awful but look at how much it money it made for the European powers who engaged in it. So in the same vein it can be argued that any negative effects that the BRICs are having on Africa is to be expected if they want global domination in the tradition of Britain and the USA. Power has a price, they say, and perhaps that price is the rampant exploitation of others. So the irony is that EuroAmerica is berating the BRIC nations on the negative aspects of their activities on the continent and yet EuroAmerica too had (very) negative effects on Africa when they first came to the continent. Hypocrisy much?

Please note I am certainly not saying that Africans should tolerate unacceptable behaviour on the continent…quite the contrary. We need to be very diligent as an increasing number of foreign powers turn their eyes, minds and pockets towards Africa. But we should be wary of EVERYONE; the BRICs, EuroAmerica and any other power coming into Africa. We really need to get our act together as Africans…and urgently. Yes we are getting better at taking care of business but we need to get much better. For if we don’t, we risk continually getting into deals that are based on the self-interest of other nations and not our own.

There’s more to say here but there endeth my rant.


[i] EuroAmerica here is a general term used to describe the forces (i.e. media, government, private sector, academia and individuals) from Europe and the USA who would prefer their continued prominence in Africa and the world in general and view any other hierarchy of world power as fundamentally problematic.

[ii] Note: I left South Africa out on purpose. I consider South Africa closer to Africa than the BRIC in terms of the scale of the economies involved.

[iii] Note: Most of the comments are currently being directed at China and Africa as they are the most entrenched in Africa of the BRIC. I surmise it will only be a matter of time before Brazil and Russia are referred to in the same manner.

[vi]  http://www.policymic.com/articles/1657/china-africa-s-new-colonial-power

[viii]  BusinessWeek (2010), ‘Critics Slam EU-Brazil African Biofuel Plan’ http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jul2010/gb20100715_303820.htm

[ix]  Note: This beginning to happen between EuroAmerica and some of the BRIC nations with examples such as the EU-Brazil biofuel deals with Mozambique and the Italo-Brazilian bio-fuel scouting and activities in Africa. But these bi/multilateral deals between the BRIC and EuroAmerica are still limited in number and tend to exclude China and India.

[x] This is why it is especially problematic when Africans themselves use the term colonial when describing BRIC activities in Africa.

BRAZIL AND AFRICA: WHAT’S THE DEAL?

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The interaction between Brazil and Africa is coming to increasingly closer scrutiny as the continent that was once labelled the ‘dark continent’ has now been labelled the ‘hopeful continent’[1]. Burgeoning African economies are being called ‘Lion economies’ insinuating the potential and interest that the Asian ‘Tiger economies’ raised in the past; Brazil is but one interested party in the continent. However what is the nature of the interaction between Africa and Brazil? And can Africa truly benefit from this growing relationship?

Africa and Brazil are linked by the sad and brutal reality of the Brazilian Slave Trade that started around 1550 and ended in the late 1800s. Over the course of this barbaric affair, during which Africans were treated as nothing but plantation fodder, it is estimated that over 3 million Africans were forcefully migrated into Brazil. There are now over a staggering 190 million black or mixed race blacks in Brazil making up 50.7% of a total population[2]. Despite this significant historical connection, Brazil’s official political and economic relationship with Africa has been anything but steadfast and interested. There has been a blend of distancing and rapprochement by the consecutive Brazilian governments towards Africa. It was mainly under Lula Di Silva’s tenure that Brazilo-African relations were truly brought to focus by the Brazilian government. Indeed, Lula’s administration (2003- 2010), ‘revived Brazil’s interest in Africa and set it on a surer footing, as part of the search to extend Brazil’s global influence’[3].   So serious was Lula’s interest in Africa that, ‘one of his first acts of office was a federal decree that made the study of African history and African and Afro-Brazilian culture mandatory at all levels of Brazil’s national curriculum’.[4] Lula was also outspoken with regard to Africa’s political position in the world seen in 2011 when he stated that, ‘It isn’t possible that the African continent, with 53 countries, has no permanent representation on the Security Council…(The west) is unable to see an Africa that is composed of human beings equal to those on the European continent’ [5]. During his tenure, Lula, spoke of, ‘Brazil’s “historic debt” to the continent stating that, ‘Brazilian society was built on the work, the sweat and the blood of Africans,’ and for that reason, Brazil ‘is in debt to Africa’[6], [7].

GROWING ECONOMIC CONNECTIONS

Lula’s rhetoric aside, there are very concrete economic connections that have made between Africa and Brazil, especially under his administration.

‘Brazil’s trade with Africa increased between 2000 and 2010 from US$4 billion to US$20 billion’[8]. In terms of FDI, the Brazilian government has been prioritizing FDI in Africa and increased FDI from about US$69 billion in 2001 to US$214 billion in 2009[9].

Source: World Resources Institute

Brazilian companies of significant scale have been moving into Africa, for example:

  • Mining giant Vale is to invest a total of $15-20 billion in Africa within the next five years [10]
  • Infrastructure firm Odebrecht operates in several African countries and in 2009, Africa accounted for $2.427 billion in revenues for the group, or about 10 percent of its earnings[11]
  • Oil company Petrobras plans to invest some $3 billion in Africa from now until 2013[12].
  • By September 2007 Brazil’s National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) had approved 29 projects in Africa worth $742 million. [13]

 

GROWING POLITICAL CONNECTIONS

In addition to these economic ventures, political connections between Brazil and Africa have been burgeoning in recent times. For example, in 2003 the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA), was created. IBSA is a multilateral initiative which, among other things, has a Fund for Poverty Alleviation, the first initiative of cooperation for development on the basis of a trilateral South-South cooperation. 

Another, somewhat informal but potentially formidable political connection which is linked to IBSA developed in 2003 when Brazil played a key role in the creation of the developing countries’ ‘Group of 21’ (G21). G21 is essentially a collection of developing countries that seek to get more favourable trade deals with the economic powers of the global north and is testament to the fact that, ‘Developing countries have woken up to their negotiating power… and are trying to make the WTO work for the poor despite the best efforts of the EU and US to frustrate them’[14]. Though not formally recognised, such political alliances between Brazil and African nations may prove to be of significant use for both.  In addition to these, Brazil has demonstrated interest in forging ties with ECOWAS, the Economic Commission of West African States and welcomed several African nations into what used to be the exclusively South American economic and political club, Mercosur’ [15].

All of these political and economic bonds that are being forged between Africa and Brazil speak to the recent focus Brazil has had for Africa. However, it is important to note that most of these initiatives were taken under Lula’s administration which has since been replaced. That said, it appears as though Lula’s legacy with Africa is going to be respected by the new Rousseff administration. Indeed, ‘Under the leadership of President Lula da Silva, ties between Brazil and Africa deepened and under the new Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, these ties are continuing to strengthen’.[16] This interest is being echoed by African governments who, ‘have continued to engage and deepen partnership with Brazil’[17].

DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE

Another interesting angle through which one can analyse Brazilo-African relationship is through development assistance. It is important to note that Brazil is not a loud development partner that has high profile organisations and programs in the tradition of EuroAmerican development assistance. Rather, ‘Without attracting much attention, Brazil is fast becoming one of the world’s biggest providers of help to poor countries’[18]. But how exactly does Brazil implement its development assistance?

Technical cooperation

So far, ‘Brazilian assistance programs have focused on technical cooperation in developing countries’[19]. Indeed, ‘Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have requested cooperation from Brazil in five key areas: tropical agriculture, tropical medicine, vocational training (to support the industrial sector), energy, and social protection’[20]. These areas probably reflect the relevance of Brazilian expertise for Africa since in reality, ‘Brazil is simultaneously a developed country and a developing country, a donor and a recipient of development aid’[21]. Therefore there are areas of similarity where Brazil can understand where Africa is, what the challenges are and possible areas of strategic collaboration. Indeed, ‘Brazil’s development projects are mainly based on concepts that have already been implemented at home’ and therefore one can argue Brazil has practical experience that Africa can draw on[22].

Financial interventions: concessional loans, debt relief

In terms of the financial instruments that Brazil uses in it development assistance arsenal it, ‘provides concessional loans and debt relief to developing countries’ with, ‘Brazilian debt relief to the continent exceeding US$1 billion[23], [24]. Although there is not much published on concessional loans, Brazil has given significant debt relief packages to some African nations. For example, ‘under the HIPC initiative, Brazil forgave $369 million of Mozambique’s debt as well as smaller amounts owed by Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau’[25].  Brazil has also unofficially waived $240 million of Tanzania’s debt[26]. In addition to these, Brazil ‘renegotiated several African nations’ debt during the Lula administrations…This financial action exceeded US$1 billion and accounted for almost 75 percent of the total debt renegotiated by the Lula administrations’[27] .

Such steps in development assistance seem to be practical, targeted and relevant to Africa. They are bound to encourage African governments to draw closer to Brazil as they seem to indicate that Brazil is genuinely interested in propelling the continent’s growth.

RACE, ANTI-IMPERIALISM AND RELATED COMPLEXITIES

However, although there is a growing interest in the Brazilo-African connection, there are complexities that inform this interaction as well, some less positively than others.

Race: The Afro-Brazilian experience

It is well documented that the attitude towards blacks in Brazil leaves a lot to be desired, ‘Economic and educational disadvantages, combined with the system of alliances, bargaining, and patronage that (has) recruited the political and diplomatic elites, marginalized Brazilians of African descent and deprived them of the benefits of modernity and progress. Such obstacles needed to be removed, rather than deepened’[28]. Since most of Africa is black, one wonders the extent to which this problematic aspect of Brazilian culture will inform the manner through which Brazil interacts with Africa. Bear in mind that, some in Brazil already view investment in Africa as, ‘wasting money in a continent without future’ and view Africa as a colossal failure that cannot be salvaged[29]. Will such sentiment on the domestic front affect the extent to which the Brazilian government can continue to positively engage with Africa?

History of anti-imperialist theoretical development

On the other hand, one can argue that Brazil is genuine in its action to draw closer to Africa; indeed it can be seen to have feelings of solidarity with Africa. Infact, ‘Brazilian diplomats claim that its development aid has not been linked to the country’s political and commercial interests, but guided by solidarity’[30]. Brazil has a rich history of anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic theorists such as Paulo Freire, as well as those who analysed race and class in Brazil such as Clovis Moura, Florestan Fernandes and Octávio Ianni. These are topics and issues that Africa itself resonates with as seen in the works of individuals such as Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Ngugi Wa’Thiongo and Thomas Sankara. So it can be argued that there are solid grounds for a genuine feelings of solidarity between the Brazil and Africa as they have both gone through and overcome colonialism and continue to address the social problems and challenges that it created.

RESPONSE TO BRAZIL’S ENGAGEMENT IN AFRICA

Anti-Africa arguments

Given this renewed interest, many ask what the true intentions driving Brazil’s renewed interest in Africa are. Some argue that Brazil’s emerging role as a medium-sized power is the reason why it has ‘begun rejuvenating the nation’s relations with the African continent’[31].  Brazil sees Africa as a power that can enhance its global positioning as a force to be reckoned with.

Others argue that economics drives this renewal and that Brazil is engaged in, ‘soft imperialism’ in that the, ‘Brazilian business community wants to make profit where it is possible, especially in the new markets’[32]. Indeed some argue that, ‘A key aim of Brazilian foreign policy under Lula…has been to reduce Brazilian vulnerability on the international stage’ by engaging in a more ‘muscular foreign policy’ to pursue its interests’[33]. Therefore, there is no real desire to help Africa develop economically but rather it is the capitalistic ambition driving Brazil’s renewed interaction with Africa. It can be argued that, ‘An economic goal of Brazilian foreign policy is the development of new export markets to create employment within the country (Brazil) in order to reduce poverty’[34]. After all, one can observe that some of the patterns of trade between Africa and Brazil echo that between Euro-America and Africa; a preponderance of Africa’s export of raw materials. Note, ‘More than 80 percent of Brazil’s imports from the African continent are mineral products and crude materials (oil and gas)[35]. This may indicate that Brazil is note interested in driving any structural economic change in either African trade patterns nor in Africa’s position in the global economic order. It seems content with the status-quo that keeps Africa at the bottom of the economic pile as the supplier of raw materials. In addition, most of Brazil’s economic engagement is with a handful of natural resource-rich African nations, ‘Brazil’s major trading partners in Africa are Nigeria (32 percent), Angola (16 percent), Algeria (12percent), South Africa (10 percent), and Libya (7 percent). Together these countries make up 77 percent of its total trade with the continent’[36]. Therefore, it can be argued that Africa as whole is truly benefiting from this trade.

Another concern with Brazil’s interaction with Africa is its biofuel agenda. Indeed, Brazil’s push for biofuel has registered concern with some whom argue that in a continent, ‘That suffers persistent hunger, using millions of hectares of agricultural land to grow crops to power European cars is immoral and perverse’ [37]. The core concern here is that Brazil seems to advocating for the use of arable land for generating renewable fuel sources thereby risking a loss of much needed arable land and a likely hike in food prices. This is surely set to worsen Africa’s already fragile food (in)security position. Further, targeting Africa for biofuel production makes Brazil a mere addition to one of the many foreign parties engaged in the ongoing scuffle for African land[38].

 

Pro-Africa argument

However, there is another side to this equation because, as explored earlier, Africa can draw direct relevance from Brazil to Africa not only because Brazil has a tropical climate like Africa, but Brazil is also partly a developing country which, like Africa, has areas with dire poverty and a growing divide between rich and poor. Brazil’s technical know-how can thus arguably be effectively used in Africa in areas such as tropical agriculture, medicine, renewable energy, social protection and vocational training. Lessons drawn from Brazil may well be more relevant than those drawn from EuroAmerica.

Secondly, as stated, Brazil has demonstrated support for Africa’s economic growth through its action on trade and debt. Further, ‘Brazil is being utilized by African governments to counter the European infrastructural economic domination’[39]. Brazil gives Africans an alternative social and economic development partner to the EuroAmerican parties which have dominated Africa for so long.

THE CONUNDRUM TO SOLVE

Regardless of what position one takes, there is an interesting tension in this relationship. Firstly, on one hand, the motivation for Brazil’s interaction with Africa can be seen to be pure self-interest with Brazil pursuing Africa for the economic and political benefits it will gain due to this relationship. At the same time, there are genuine common points of agreement and solidarity between Africa and Brazil, especially on economic issues and the attitude the EuroAmerica has towards trade and debt with regard to poor countries. So there is pure self-interest as well as genuine solidarity informing Brazil’s continued pursuit of relations with Africa. It will be interesting to see how these opposing motivations will inform Brazil’s engagement with Africa.

Secondly, further interwoven into this conundrum, is the fact that on one hand Brazil is pro-EuroAmerican as it develops and seeks to expand interaction with this bloc in order to develop economically, using the capitalist model. It thus seeks to draw from the experience and expertise EuroAmerica has in this field. The concurrent reality is that Brazil, as mentioned earlier, has stood and will likely continue to stand in solidarity with Africa in what can be seen as Africa’s ‘anti-EuroAmerican’ positions on trade and debt. Due to asymmetry in the global capitalistic system, African nations openly condemn the trade policies and economic behaviour that EuroAmerica has with and towards them. Therefore, on one hand Brazil in pro-EuroAmerican and seeks to build ties with them for its economic benefit and on the other hand it is anti-EuroAmerican as it seeks to address the global economic asymmetry. Ergo, there is a perplexing internal contradiction Brazil has with regard to EuroAmerica of which it needs to be aware. This contradiction is one that African nations ought to be aware of and use it inform their interaction with Brazil such that they benefit from it.

HOW CAN AFRICA BENEFIT

The bottom line question is: what can Africa do to ensure it benefits from Brazil’s interest in Africa?

Short term

In the short term, Africa can do the following:

  • Insist that locals are hired for Brazilian projects in Africa. This will increase the likelihood of a transfer of skills and wealth on a basic level at the very least.
  • Make use of the conundrum described above and build solidarity with Brazil and use its bargaining power to ensure that where possible, Brazil supports Africa’s position particularly in the context of global interactions on trade and debt.
  • Continue to use Brazil’s development assistance and draw on Brazil’s experience to the fullest extent possible with regard to developing and strengthening vocational educational institutions in Africa, improving agriculture, developing social protection programs and the development of renewable energy options. Africa should take advantage of the huge skills transfer possibilities these opportunities present.

Long term

In the long term, Africa should:

  • Build positive cultural ties with Brazil particularly in light of the significant Afro-Brazilian population. In this way Africa can begin to exert its own influence in Brazil.
  • Continue to push for and consolidate Brazil as an ally to Africa with regard to getting fairer trade terms in global trade discussions
  • Use Brazil’s technical cooperation activities to build a manufacturing base for value addition in Africa
  • Support Brazil in building South-South cooperation so that many African nations can benefit from their knowledge and expertise as well
  • Learn from how Brazil works in some African countries and implement relevant and successful elements to other African countries. In this light, encourage exchange-tours between African countries on activities done in conjunction with Brazil.
  • Encourage the development of dialogue between Africa-wide institutions such as the African Union and the African Development Bank and Brazil.

[1] Economist, The (2011), ‘The hopeful continent: Africa rising’, http://www.economist.com/node/21541015

[2] 2011, Góes, Paul, ‘Brazil: Census “Reveals” Majority of Population is Black or Mixed Race’,  http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/11/29/brazil-census-black-mixed-population

[3] World Bank (2011), Bridging the Atlantic-  Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa: South–South Partnering for Growth , http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/africa-brazil-bridging-final.pdf

[4] Pham, Peter (2010), ‘Brazil Expanding Links in Africa: Lula’s Positive Legacy’, http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.7624/pub_detail.asp

[5] Karpova, Lisa (trans.) (2011), ‘Lula criticizes UN, West at African Union summit, http://english.pravda.ru/hotspots/terror/08-07-2011/118436-Lula_criticizes_UN_West_at_summit-0/

[6] The African Development Bank Group (2011), ‘Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa’ Africa Economic Brief (Volume 2, Issue 5) http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil%27s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[7] Harsch, Ernest (2004), ‘Brazil repaying its ‘debt’ to Africa’ http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol17no4/174brazil.htm

[8] The African Development Bank Group (2011), ‘Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa’ Africa Economic Brief (Volume 2, Issue 5)

[9] World Bank (2011), Bridging the Atlantic-  Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa: South–South Partnering for Growth , http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/africa-brazil-bridging-final.pdf

[10] Lewis, David (2011), ‘In Africa, Brazil takes a different track’, Reuters http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/specials/Brazil%20in%20Africa.pdf

[11] Lewis, David (2011), ‘In Africa, Brazil takes a different track’, Reuters http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/specials/Brazil%20in%20Africa.pdf

[12] Biofuels Digest (2010), ‘ Brazil, Petrobas spreading bioenergy tentacles across Africa’http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2010/06/10/brazil-petrobras-spreading-bioenergy-tentacles-across-africa/

[13]Seibert, Gerhard (2011), ‘Brazil in Africa: Ambitions and Achievements of an Emerging Regional Power in the Political and Economic Sector’ http://www.nai.uu.se/ecas-4/panels/1-20/panel-8/Gerhard-Seibert-Full-paper.pdf

[14] The Guardian (2003), ‘G21 alliance of the poor fights subsidies deal’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2003/sep/15/2

[15] ECOWAS Press Release (2010). ‘Ecowas, Brazil Agree New Initiatives To Bolster Their Collaboration’, http://news.ecowas.int/presseshow.php?nb=105&lang=en&annee=2010

[16] World Bank (2011), Bridging the Atlantic-  Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa: South–South Partnering for Growth , http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/africa-brazil-bridging-final.pdf

[17] Ibid

[18] Economist, The, ‘Speak softly and carry a blank cheque’, http://www.economist.com/node/16592455

[19] Yonemura, Akemi(2010), ‘A Brave New World of ‘Emerging’, ‘Non-DAC’ Donors and their Differences from Traditional Donors’, http://www.norrag.org/issues/article/1330/en/brazil-in-africa.html

[20] World Bank (2011), Bridging the Atlantic-  Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa: South–South Partnering for Growth , http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/africa-brazil-bridging-final.pdf

[21] Seibert, Gerhard (2011), ‘Brazil in Africa: Ambitions and Achievements of an Emerging Regional Power in the Political and Economic Sector’, http://www.nai.uu.se/ecas-4/panels/1-20/panel-8/Gerhard-Seibert-Full-paper.pdf

[22] Seibert, Gerhard (2011), ‘Brazil in Africa: Ambitions and Achievements of an Emerging Regional Power in the Political and Economic Sector’, http://www.nai.uu.se/ecas-4/panels/1-20/panel-8/Gerhard-Seibert-Full-paper.pdf

[23] The African Development Bank Group (2011), ‘Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa’ Africa Economic Brief (Volume 2, Issue 5)

[24] [24] World Bank (2011), Bridging the Atlantic-  Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa: South–South Partnering for Growth , http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/africa-brazil-bridging-final.pdf

[25] ONE (2010), ‘The Data Report’, http://www.one.org/report/2010/en/country/emerging/brazil.html

[26] Embassy of Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) (2010) ‘Exports Key To Tanzania’s Debt Sustainability’ http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=06DARESSALAAM1483

[27] World Bank (2011), Bridging the Atlantic-  Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa: South–South Partnering for Growth , http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/africa-brazil-bridging-final.pdf

[28] World Bank (2011), Bridging the Atlantic-  Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa: South–South Partnering for Growth , http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/africa-brazil-bridging-final.pdf

[29] Visentini, Paulo Fagundes (2009), ‘Prestige diplomacy, southern solidarity or “soft imperialism”?Lula’s Brazil-Africa relations (2003 onwards)’ http://www.ascleiden.nl/Pdf/seminarvisentini.pdf

[30] Seibert, Gerhard (2011), ‘Brazil in Africa: Ambitions and Achievements of an Emerging Regional Power in the Political and Economic Sector’, http://www.nai.uu.se/ecas-4/panels/1-20/panel-8/Gerhard-Seibert-Full-paper.pdf

[31] Doelling , Rachel (2008), ‘Brazil’s Contemporary Foreign Policy towards Africa’, Journal Of International Relations (Vol. 10)

[32] Visentini, Paulo Fagundes (2009), ‘Prestige diplomacy, southern solidarity or “soft imperialism”?Lula’s Brazil-Africa relations (2003 onwards)’ http://www.ascleiden.nl/Pdf/seminarvisentini.pdf

[33] Alden, Christoper (2011), ‘Emerging Powers and Africa’, http://www2.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/publications/reports/pdf/SU004/alden.pdf

[34] Seibert, Gerhard (2011), ‘Brazil in Africa: Ambitions and Achievements of an Emerging Regional Power in the Political and Economic Sector’, http://www.nai.uu.se/ecas-4/panels/1-20/panel-8/Gerhard-Seibert-Full-paper.pdf

[35] The African Development Bank Group (2011), ‘Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa’ Africa Economic Brief (Volume 2, Issue 5), http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil%27s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[36] The African Development Bank Group (2011), ‘Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa’ Africa Economic Brief (Volume 2, Issue 5), http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil%27s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[37] BusinessWeek (2010), ‘Critics Slam EU-Brazil African Biofuel Plan’ http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jul2010/gb20100715_303820.htm

[38] Paiva , Marcelo and Tsegay Wolde-Georgis (2010) ‘GUEST Editorial: “Brazil-Africa ‘Biofuels Diplomacy’: South-South Relations on the Rise.”’ http://fragilecologies.com/blog/?p=1452