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Africa and the Middle East
Dr. Rogate R. Mshana
ISSUES FACING AFRICA TODAY AND YEARS AHEAD:
I have been asked to state the justice issues facing Africa today and in the years ahead. I have also been asked to respond to the question: What is the impact of U.S. policies relating to Africa?
Justice Issues Facing Africa
“Justice”, as I will be using this word, is not limited to the Roman notion of “justicia”, which is atomistic. Nor is it limited to the notion of “distributive justice” whereby each person is given his/her due. When I am talking about justice issues facing Africa I am thinking more in terms of the biblical concept of “righteousness” as depicted in the Old Testament. In this context justice is seen as the necessity of building societies that will be genuinely participatory, of correcting maldistribution and overcoming the gap between the rich and the poor within and between countries, sustainability which points to humanity’s dependence upon earth, and the way which society organizes itself for developing natural resources.
In this presentation, justice issues are highlighted at both the internal and external levels. The interaction of both internal and external factors have made the prospect of managing Africa’s development in a sustainable way more complex, as globalization ensures that destructive processes traverse borders as quickly as those that are constructive.
Internal Justice Issues
A. Undemocratic/Corrupt Regimes and Inappropriate Economic Policies
Fantu Cheru, writing on African Renaissance outlines some of the justice issues at the domestic level which include inherited colonial legacies and the transition from colonialism to undemocratic (and often corrupt), highly militarized neo-colonial regimes. They adopted development strategies that benefit a few urban elite at the expense of the majority. The majority of the people living in the rural areas are generally neglected despite the fact that most of them contribute over 40% of many African national economies. The sad scenario is that most of these regimes were supported by industrial countries including the US. It was strange that attempts made by the people to elect good leaders were frustrated and popular leaders assassinated with the help of foreign powers. The case of Lumumba who was replaced by the late Mobutu in Congo is well documented.
Though African Leaders are now speaking of good governance, still there is need to strengthen political stability, rule-based political order mediated by an impartial and independent judiciary, and good governance, with particular emphasis on transparency and accountability. Decentralization of decision-making to local structures and the meaningful involvement of civil society in the political process have not taken root. Eliminating corruption and red tape, and establishing a transparent system in policy decisions and contractual arrangements remain challenges.
The efforts to fight corruption should address both sides of the deed--it takes two to tango. African civil society calls for the speedy adoption of the proposed UN Convention on Corruption and a framework to help developing countries recover their stolen assets stashed in foreign banks.
B. Conflict, Wars and Refugees
Africa hosts about half of the world’s displaced people and over 7 million Africans are categorized as refugees. If one includes many internally displaced persons forced to flee their homes, those unregistered in camps, or those persons who have sought asylum in other countries, the number is huge. Twelve countries in East Africa have more refugees than the rest of Africa combined. This phenomenon of human displacement is both caused by political (ethnic conflicts, civil wars) and economic injustice ( bad economic policies and natural disasters such as drought and famine). In most cases , people are fighting for resources.
The solution is to end conflicts and to promote economic policies which are based on justice and peace. The search for peace should be based on justice as demonstrated by the meaning of a Chinese word “peace” as “pyeong hwa”. “Pyeong” means to level and “hwad” means grain to every mouth. Therefore, peace is to equalize grains to every mouth or to distribute equally grains, or food to every mouth. The failure to end conflicts in Africa is because in most cases the solutions are not based on seriously tackling the issue of justice.
The roots of conflicts in Africa date back to the colonial period and reinforced by the cold war machinations of both East and West. With the end of the cold war, however, the ethnic pieces put together by colonial glue and reinforced by the old world order are now pulling apart and reasserting their autonomy.
External Issues of Justice
A. The Marginalization of Africa Due to External Economic and Political Factors.
After independence Africa became a laboratory for all types of development models designed in the West or the East. Experts, researchers and development aid were poured into Africa to develop it. These exogenous inputs were not based on justice, however, and hence Africa, though integrated into the world economy for 100 years, has never emerged from poverty.
The fact is that people in Africa have always been excluded from the process. Even the current New Economic Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) has excluded the people of Africa in its formulation. The concept of development adopted was based on pure economic growth and the notion of trickle down. This is a concept still pushed today by the IMF and World Bank via Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP’s) and its reformed varieties such as Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSP’s).
A view of development, which takes social justice as its starting point, must view the foundations and progress of economic growth in a different way. The experiences of many churches indicated clearly that participation and sustainability could not exist without justice and that justice must be the basis for a new economic order. The underlining start was to have a new system of values. An economic system must be tested in terms of whether and to what extent they put people at the center of development process and do so as subjects, not merely as objects of that process. The following are some of the criteria for testing economic systems even today’s economic globalization.
· Meeting basic needs: Does economic globalization meet the fundamental psycho-physical needs of human beings?
· Justice and Participation: Are these needs met equitably? Is there reasonable equality of access to the resources of society?
· Sustainability: Is the economic system economically and socially sustainable over generations?
· Self-reliance: Does the economic system enable people to achieve a sense of their own worth, freedom and capacity, rather than being completely vulnerable to decisions of others?
· Universality: Does the economic system and economic policies focus on the above elements for the global human family, beyond national or regional political boundaries?
· Peace: Does the economic system promote the prospects for peace built upon the foundation of justice?
Global economic policies on Africa are not based on the above criteria and hence most of their intervention in Africa has proved to be disastrous. The process of economic globalization has continued to marginalize Africa.
The current process of economic globalization should be tested against the above values and criteria. This concern in the ecumenical movement has come to be understood in terms of support for the poor in their struggle against all systems of exclusion and oppression. The central Christian commitment to development is to build a truly human society, one, which is at the same time, just, participatory and sustainable. From this framework the issue of globalization and human rights in Africa is highlighted.
B. Human Rights and Globalization in Africa
How is economic globalization violating human rights in Africa, who are the main violators and how can the situation be rectified? I focus on the economic part of economic globalization. In other words, issues of trade, investment and finance and the enforcement of the neo-economic paradigm should be measured against the principles contained in several human rights agreements particularly those related to the right to development.
A good reference on this subject is a document prepared by J. Oloka-Onyango and Deepika Udagama in accordance with the Human Rights Sub-commission Resolution of 1999/8. They argue that the process and impact of globalization should be measured against the following major declarations and conventions:
· Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
· International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
· International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
· Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women.
· Convention on the Rights of the Child:
· ILO Convention No.169, Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
The history of Africa is one full of violation of human rights. The history of globalization which began with slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and today’s corporate globalization and the empire has shown a gross violation of human rights as it passed through two phases of global economic development. The first phase occurred before the existence of the United Nations as we know it today. International conventions and agreements on human rights were almost non-existent. When these conventions were formulated some countries began to implement some of the elements contained in them but many countries simply signed or ratified them without any effort to implement them.
The reasons for not implementing them are varied. In the developing countries especially Africa, we experience lack of political commitment from many nation-states. Some countries are so poor that they cannot afford to guarantee education and health for their populace as a human right. In other cases we observe a high degree of corruption on the side of the ruling and commercial elides. In other countries dictatorships and undemocratic regimes deprive people of their human rights.
In the industrialized rich countries, human rights are observed at the political level but less on the economic level. Unemployment arising out of more automation of production where productivity rises without workers in industries and where short term financial investments are more attractive than in long term production, less jobs are created leading to the violation of the people’s right to full employment and protection against unemployment. The situation in African countries leads to child labor, indecent jobs and unfavorable remuneration.
C. Global Inequality
Inequality among and between nations is perpetuated by the current globalization, which has produced the haves and the have-nots. In Africa, where the vast majority of the populace is based in the rural area eking out a subsistence existence, the fact remains that globalization has not improved things. Partaking in the process of globalization, represented by the process of free markets, the liberalization of trade barriers, is thus no guarantee that all will benefit. Globalization has not only reinforced the traditional inequality between North and South; it has also reinforced inequalities within the North. It has also ignited new violence and discrimination.
“Race-related violence and other forms of abuse are escalating. Radicalized discrimination in employment and education persists at significant levels, as does radicalized intimidation by the police. The state and employers publicly and officially embrace equal opportunities, but by postponement and delaying tactics ensure it is not implemented.
Growing wealth accompanied by growing inequality is the paradox of globalization. Women are the first to be eliminated by the liberalization and privatization policies of globalization clearly in violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
D. Globalization through SAPs Violates Human Rights
Structural Adjustment Programs’ major aim was to discredit the dominant post-war state-led development model and move African countries toward a market-led model in which the state and the public sector would be reduced to a minimal level. This aim was to be achieved by pursuing short-term economic stabilization and structural reforms. In the process of pursuing these programs in Africa we have witnessed a growing number of human rights violations.
Fall notes that the economic and social costs of liquidation, rehabilitation and privatization of the public sector in Africa are immeasurable. They are all resulting in the contraction of output, massive job losses and falling incomes. This is particularly true for women and other low-skilled workers who are mostly government and public sector employees. Women in the labor force decreased from 57% in 1970 t0 53% in 1990. Violation of human rights is immense. Most countries have also risked foreign domination and the undermining of national sovereignty.
In general, SAPs have failed to bring economic recovery in Africa. These policies which were imposed by the World Bank and the IMF expressing the views of the western governments, leading commercial banks and private investors had three main principles: deregulate, liberalize, privatize and disengage the state in economic affairs. The policies failed to alleviate the debt burden but instead increased debt by 113% between 1982 and 1990. Poverty, unemployment, crime, war and corruption intensified.
Susan George contends that economic policies imposed on the debtors by the major multilateral agencies-policies packaged under the general heading of “structural adjustment”--have cured nothing at all. They have rather caused untold suffering and widespread environmental destruction while simultaneously emptying debtor countries of their resources, rendering them each year less able to service their debts, let alone invest in economic and human recovery.
E. The Violators of Human Economic Rights
The failure of the above programs has led to violation of human rights. But why are the culprits not made accountable? Susan George narrates the situation thus:
The World Bank and the IMF structural adjusters have now had a generous period to impose their plans and cannot complain that their measures have not been given enough time to work. Had these public debt management officials been corporate executives, with so little to show for them, their shareholders would have doubtless sacked them long ago for incompetence. Had they been politicians, they would have been trounced at election time and sent back to where they came from. Corporate managers and local or national public office can be dismissed for poor performance. No such accountability applies to the international bureaucrats acting on behalf of the creditor governments. The international debt managers need not submit to the judgement of their victims. They answer only to their own equally unaccountable superiors, and at the top of the bureaucratic tree, to a board of governors reflecting the majority voting strength of the richest creditor countries. These lavishly compensated international civil “servants” are consequently to be found in Washington and throughout the third world, living exceedingly well.
These violators of human economic rights have to be made accountable
F. Globalization Through Trade Liberalization Violates Human Rights
The main players in trade are transnational corporations and international financial institutions (IFIs); The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a global institution attempting to set rules and their enforcement. Their policy of forcing governments to reduce controls of trade has resulted in greatly increasing inequality of trade benefits and growing violations of human rights. It has been observed that there are “two worlds” of traders: those big companies who produce to trade on international markets and the other world of small enterprises who produce to live. What is happening in the globalization process is the former is destroying the latter. The argument that trade liberalization benefits all does not take into account the reality that small enterprises lack the capital, information and capacity to compete in, in fact, they find that in spite of the rhetoric western countries are closed to them. This is against human rights.
G. Violation of Human Rights in Agriculture
Trade in agriculture is highly concentrated, with three companies accounting for 83 percent of world trade in cocoa, six companies controlling 85% of world grain trade, and three companies accounting for around 80% of world banana sales. Though most primary products come from developing countries, all these companies are based in industrialized countries. Injustice happen when globalization mainly encourages developing countries especially Africa to open up their markets for primary products allowing the few companies that dominate these markets to increase their share of the market at the expense of the smaller firms. Meanwhile, the industrialized countries continue to close their markets and their companies enjoy the protection they get from their own rich governments. The following example demonstrates a good example of violation of human rights in the global marketplace:
Uganda depends on coffee for around 70% of export earnings. Since Uganda implemented a structural adjustment program and joined the WTO, the coffee regime has been liberalized and production has increased. However the benefits have not been equally distributed. According to the World Bank, key beneficiaries have been international coffeehouses, involved in 80% of the production and trade of Uganda’s coffee, while Ugandan traders have been squeezed out of the market. This result is a violation of Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (… In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.)
H. Violation of Human Rights through TRIPs
Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an agreement under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to enable companies to own knowledge and inventions, which is now an important source of competitive advantage in global markets. In order to profit from new inventions or the commercial exploitation of the existing technologies, companies need to be able to patent them, gaining exclusive rights in the developing and marketing of new products. This agreement which commits all countries to implement domestic legislation allowing any country to register patents in a variety of sectors, enables companies from rich countries to increase their share of the market.
Up to 80% of patents in developing countries are held by transnational corporations. The German Parliament study on globalization mentions that 97 % of all patents belong to companies from industrialized countries, and some 90 % of the patents applied for in developing and newly industrialized countries are also the property of companies based in industrial countries. Among these are Monsanto, which has taken out patents on some of the ingredients of the Neem tree which has been used throughout Asia for centuries for medical and agricultural purposes. The Africa Trade Policy Working Group (ATPWG) in the U.S. has documented 13 companies which claim rights over a number of African indigenous resources. Most of the agreements negotiated under WTO favor the industrialized countries because they are based on skewed level ground. The interests of corporations from the rich countries are well represented in this organization.
Africa is the least represented at the WTO. This exclusion is another violation of human rights. If agreements are to be fair, negotiations must be fair and based on the concern for vulnerable countries. Negotiations can involve more than 40 meetings a week in Geneva. The U.S. has 250 negotiators in Geneva while half of the least developed countries that are members of WTO have very few representatives in Geneva. UK estimates that it costs $900,000 annually to keep its mission in Geneva. Very few African countries if any will be able to adequately negotiate because they simply cannot be at the table.
Negotiations of TRIPs began with a very small group of companies. In agriculture, Cargill, a US firm which controls half of global trade in grains was involved in preparing the position of the U.S. in agriculture during the last round of negotiations. According to the Corporate European Observer, there was a committee of only 13 major companies, including General Motors and Monsanto, which lobbied governments to include their proposals in the Uruguay round of trade talks. Ninety-six out of the 111 members of the U.S. delegation negotiating on intellectual property right were from the private sector. The closeness of WTO to corporations and the influence of the rich countries have created a scenario of unfairness in trade negotiations with the developing countries. This practice is clearly against human rights. A more equitable system of trade controls would be the creation of small regional trade regulating mechanisms. Africa needs more regional integration.
There is also a need to examine critically the implementation of Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) and its impact on Africa. Though there is a shared objective of attracting foreign investment in Africa, there is also the lack of capacity in Africa to equally invest in industrial countries. While African countries open their economies more widely to imports and investments from other countries, they are restricted to deepen their technological base of improving the competitiveness of their local firms because of the restriction of the TRIMs agreement which does not allow the free use of technologies protected by patents.
The current U.S. Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)--see under US policies on Africa below—with provisions in the act relating to free trade agreements is one of those policies which are still unjust. The main beneficiary of AGOA will be the U.S. It will grant American companies and producers better and more protected access to African economies and markets, while undermining the ability of African countries to pursue their own development priorities.
I. Digital and Social Divide
The current global restructuring is based on the development of information and communication technologies associated with the digitization of knowledge. In the 19th century, there was a transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society. Africa was partly influenced by this transition. Today the industrial society is characterized by a transition from an industrial society to a knowledge-based society. Since Africa has no industrial base this transition is expected to be very slow.
The ongoing process of this structural global change is characterized by a trend toward services ( tertiarization), computers (digitization) and global networking of the economy as well as an increasing knowledge orientation of economic processes. It is disturbing to note that there is an increasing digital division of global societies into those that enjoy access to information and communication technologies and thus to information and knowledge on the one hand, and those that have no access to them on the other ( referred to as the “digital divide”). The South Center revealed this scenario by the following percentages:
Distribution of Internet Access
64% Canada and USA
6.3% Australia, Japan, New Zealand
1.6% Latin America and Caribbean
Source: South Centre 1999, p.12
The digital divide is a dominant aspect of the social divide. The political goal of all initiatives and measures must therefore be to permit all states and population groups to fairly participate in the possibilities opened up by the new information and communication technologies, in order to prevent new gaps from appearing. The main political tasks for overcoming the digital divide are to provide universal access and improve the infrastructure support required for this. Here Africa will need a lot of aid.
J. The African Debt Burden
The problem of indebtedness is especially severe for sub-Saharan African countries. Of the 41 countries classified by the World Bank as Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), 25 are in sub-Saharan Africa. These countries are in the circle of debt-poverty debt and the more they pay back, the more they are indebted. The inability to pay debt is compounded by unjust terms of trade and declining prices for commodities while diversification is increasingly expensive. Africa was drawn into the debt crisis in an entirely unjustified ways. They were given loans at lower interest rates and paid when interest rates were high. They borrowed when they could not cope with the oil crisis of 1973 and some invested in white-elephant projects. Some funds were used to buy arms.
Some loans were used with the advice of the World Bank and IMF for projects which never had good economic returns but they were still forced to pay them back. The solution to this problem has been only repeated rescheduling operations involving 30 African countries. But these initiatives have served to fuel rather than alleviate the debt crisis. Over 40% of the non-concessional debt owed by sub-Sahara Africa to industrialized countries represents differed interest payments capitalized by the Paris Club and added to the debt stock.
The HIPC initiative is still too little and comes too late. For those loans which were used by dictators such as Mobutu and Botha in South Africa, it is only right to declare them as illegitimate and cancel them without conditions. Further deeper debt cancellation for Africa is needed.
K. Globalization of Resistance and Human Rights
The ongoing resistance to exploitative globalization should be intensified in Africa and the rest of the world. What is evident is that we need a new vision of a humane world. The world should be about being human and about leaving space for others and allowing them to be human. It should be about compassion and a genuine search for creating feasible, workable and accessible opportunities for the millions out in the cold. It should be about a different vision for the world not only moved by movements in global capital markets and the pursuit of more and more for a few rich corporations.
We have reached a point where we need to re-humanize the rich and their means of creating wealth, which violates human rights. We need to globalize resistance by educating others about the negative forces of globalization. We need to globalize alternatives to globalization through networking and coalition building.
L. The New Protectionism in the Era of Free Trade
Through SAPs , Africa has been forced to open its markets and kept from protecting its own local firms. Powerful countries such as in the OECD are subsidizing their farmers by more than USD 300 billion annually. This is an injustice. I have a personal example of this injustice. My brother is a sugarcane and cotton small farmer in Tanzania. He has a family of two children. He works as a medical assistant officer in a village hospital where he is paid only USD 60 a month. Last year he harvested 58 tones of sugar cane and sold it to the local factory. He received only USD 100 because the factory could not sell its sugar. Why? Because there was too much subsidized sugar from the EU market in 2002. Similarly my brother received almost nothing for his cotton crop because there was cheap cotton in the world market as a result of the U.S. subsidizing its cotton farmers. For my brother who is not subsidized it is unfair. It is duplicitous for rich countries to speak of the commitment to eradicate poverty on the one hand while at the same time create difficult conditions for the poor on the other. This injustice will continue as long as no serious lobby work is done by the civil society.
M. The Health Crisis
The HIV/AIDs pandemic is wiping out vast populations in Africa. African countries cannot cope with this problem themselves. Still more international effort is needed to ensure that health services are affordable to all the people in Africa.
The Policies of the US related to Africa
US policies on Africa can be viewed both at the multilateral and bilateral levels.
A. Multilateral level
U.S. policies influence heavily the policies of the WTO, ILO, the World Bank, the IMF and to a large extent the UN. Several UN treaties have not been ratified by the US under the pretext that they are not in line with the U.S. interests. We have witnessed even the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol in spite of the fact that the U.S. is one of the biggest polluters of the world—a country containing only 4 percent of the global population but consuming more that 25 percent of the global oil. The WTO has rejected any reconsideration or review of article 27.3(b) which allows for the patenting of plants and life forms.
The U.S. is one of those countries which has not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights hence its view of Africa is not strongly influenced by this treaty. It is imperative that the civil society in the U.S. should campaign more to influence its government to address global issues and to urge it to ratify international treaties which are aimed at safeguarding our earth but also share the available resources equitably around the world.
The war on terrorism is another U.S. policy which requires careful implementation in order to avoid repeating problems of racism, prejudice, xenophobia that were faced with some modest progress in the 20th century. The preaching of hate, stereotyping and statements such as “we are for freedom” and “they are for evil” should be avoided. We should ensure a world of distributing grain for every mouth. Not a world of distributing bombs for every person.
The voting power of the U.S. at the World Bank and IMF indicates that the democratic principles claimed to have been built over centuries are not practiced in these institutions. The civil society should urge its government to reform these institutions to more clearly reflect the ideals preached by it. The distribution of voting power within the Word Bank gives the U.S. 16.5% of the votes. While the U.S. controls 17.4% of the votes in the IMF, African blocks of states have only 4.5% of the voting power. Can the U.S. surrender part of its votes to Africa? Can the U.S. civil society campaign for this?
B. Bilateral policies
The Clinton administration proposed the Partnership for Promoting Economic Growth and Opportunity Act in 1997. This initiative which was voted into law in April 1999 (as the African Economic Growth and Opportunity Act) by the U.S. Congress, is seen as no different from the Reagan Administration’s Caribbean Basin Initiative Plan. While this plan appears positive on the surface it will mostly benefit U.S. corporate interests. A variety of critiques have been written to show that Africa will not benefit much from this initiative. Like other initiatives, African civil society was not involved. A good analysis of this Act is made by the Africa Trade Policy Working Group and I sincerely endorse such an analysis.
The policies of the U.S. on Africa are still fundamentally not addressing the structural issues. Most of these policies are based on a very simplistic understanding that the markets solve all problems in Africa. At most, if the US is to help Africa, it should begin first by not selling arms to Africa. And second, it should assist Africa to begin dreaming and working on its own endogenous development without intervention.
 Fantu Cheru, “African Renaissance, Road Maps To The Challenge of Globalization”, ZED books , 2002 pgs .9-32
 The UN Commission on Human Rights nominated Mr. Oloka-Onyango and Ms. Deepika Udagama as Special Rapporteurs to undertake a study on the issue of globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights. Their appointment followed their joint paper entitled “Human Rights as the Primary Objective of International Trade, Investment and Finance Policy and Practice” The report is No. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/13, 15 June 2000, UN Economic and Social Council. The report is called “The Realization of Economic and Cultural Rights: Globalization and its Impact on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights”.
 Onyango and Udagama Report p.15
 See Yassine Fall(Ed), Africa:Gender, “Globalization and Resistance”, AAWORD, Book series 1999, p.46
 Susan George, “The Debt Boomerang: The Third World Debt Harms All”, Pluto Press, London 1992, p.xvi
 Madeley, “Big Business, Poor People”, London, Zed Press. 1999
 Madeley, J. /APRODEV. “Trade and the Hungry:How International Trade is Causing Hunger”, August 1999
 Prakash,S & M.Kostecki, “World Bank/WTO, Trade and Development Case Studies, Uganda Case Study”, World Trade Organization: Trade and Development Center, 1997 p.2 quoted in Christian Aid, “Fair Shares, Transnational Companies, The WTO and the World’ Poorest Communities”, Nov. 1999 p.3
 Corporate Europe Observer, Issue 4, July 1999
 Christian Aid, “Selling Suicide: Farming, False Promises and Genetic Engineering in Developing Countries”, 1999.
 You can contact the ATPWG through the Africa Faith & Justice Network. 3035 Fourth St..,NE.Washington, DC 20017.tel 202 832 3412. Fax 202 832 9051 email email@example.com
 Quoted in “Globalization of the World Economy-Challenges and Answers” Short Version Of the Final Report, Germany Bundestag, 14th Legislative Period, June 24, 2002 p.47