After participating in the General Assembly’s 66th opening session last week, a time where world leaders gather in New York and give loquacious speeches analyzing the world’s problems, President Robert Mugabe’s 100-strong delegation was stranded. The reason? The president’s chartered Air Zimbabwe flight punctured its tires upon landing and could not takeoff, according to The Standard.
Zimbabwe’s economy, once one of Africa’s most promising, has emaciated to one of the most mismanaged in the world. From $705 in 1997, the country’s GDP per capita (in current US$), has dwindled to $341 in 2008. In late 2008, the country had an unfathomable 76 billion percent inflation rate. That means, prices of goods doubled every 24 hours. Money was carried by the barrel wheel.
Recently, the country’s economy has stabilized after the government took several drastic measures, which included completely abolishing its own currency and legalizing the use of US dollars in its stead.
This month, a law aimed at “indigenizing” the country’s industries and businesses came into effect. The “Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act,” initially signed into law in 2008, requires that a business be 51% owned by blacks. The legislation is akin to the land reforms that redistributed land owned by the descendants of minority white settlers to blacks in the 2000’s.
These policies, although well intentioned, have had deleterious consequences and were malexecuted. They’ve resulted in the collapse of the country’s agricultural sector and the more recent indigenization law will, without fail, discourage investment in the country. Not to mention the fact that the land reforms unleashed a torrent of arduous sanctions from the West.
Zimbabwe has one of the most educated populations in Africa, with a literacy rate of about 90 percent.
The creation of a more equitable economic order through policies such as indigenization and land reforms cannot come at the expense of the entire country’s economic well-being. Furthermore, it is naive to think that Zimbabwe can isolate itself from the global economy by implementing policies to which corporations, owned and run by Europeans, must submit. The government must focus on establishing economic policies that strengthen the country’s financial footing.
To be clear, Mugabe, in the eyes of many Africans, has cemented his legacy as an African hero for his struggle to free Zimbabwe from minority white rule in 1980. However, the way he has mismanaged the economy and his ostentatious unwillingness to yield power democratically have left wide cracks in that legacy.
Perhaps, at next year’s General Assembly meeting, the airplane carrying the Zimbabwean head of state won’t cause embarrassment to the country… Hopefully, it will have a spare tire and carry a new president.
Although the dust has yet to settle in Libya, it is clear that the months-old armed rebellion against the government of Muammar el-Qaddafi has reached a turning point.
The euphoria of the Western media is palpable and Western countries, led by France and the United States, have been obstinate in their support for the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC). Europe and the United States, since the rebellion’s nascency, have supported the efforts to topple Qaddafi by intervening militarily (via NATO) and offered the critical diplomatic recognition that legitimated the rebellion from the start.
NATO’s military intervention was initiated after an Arab League resolution called for the UNSC to impose a no-fly-zone over Libya. This was seen as the green light by Western governments to initiate a full-scale, Yugoslavia-like air assault on the country. Subsequently, The Arab League ostensibly regretted its call and condemned the “broad Western bombing campaign”. It is certain that without the overwhelming military response by NATO, the rebellion would not have been so successful in such a relatively short amount of time.
To be clear, Qaddafi reacted the same exact way any “sovereign” state would have to an armed insurrection, whether it is the same Arab countries that initiated the NATO intervention or even the United States itself, which led the aerial bombing campaign.
The military, financial and (more importantly) diplomatic support offered by the West stands in stark contrast to the muted response by most African countries to the events in Libya. African countries have been more guarded and reluctant to give their support and recognition to the TNC. For example, South Africa, which currently holds a seat in the UN Security Council, recently stood against releasing funds to the rebel government.
The Western intervention in Libya has been under the guise of supporting a “democratic” transition and standing against a tyrannical government. The unambiguous hypocrisy of these countries, primarily the United States, was made apparent when Wikileaks detailed the fact that it was salivating over the possibility of selling arms to the same Qaddafi that it now labels a tyrant.
It is time for the West to stop cherry picking governments to overthrow while, at the same time, supporting equally repressive “regimes” (see Ethiopia and Meles Zenawi).
Thoughts are welcome!
Famines are always political at their core.
Seldom are environmental factors the only determinants that cause famines to occur. The current famine taking place in the Horn of Africa, primarily in Somalia and parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, has caused untold and prodigious devastation in that region of the world. More than 12 million people continue to face a daily struggle of eking enough food to feed themselves and their children. Over 2.3 million children are malnourished and half a million are severely-malnourished.
The crisis in Somalia and the Horn of Africa needs to be viewed within the broader, structural crises facing global access to food caused by the fluctuating prices of staples around the world. The 2007 and 2008 food-related riots that took place in several countries throughout the globe are only a harbinger of what is to come.
Much of the blame for the severe spikes in food prices has been laid on “natural” circumstances, such as drought, population growth and climate change, among other reasons. Indeed, the deleterious impact of global climate change, primarily driven by the unsustainable exploitation of the global environment and population growth, pose a serious—endemic—threat to billions of people throughout the world. However, the real and often understated cause of these so-called food “crises” is the financialization of food, through speculation in commodity markets.
Food has become just another financial product, like stocks and derivatives traded by hedge funds and private equity firms in New York and London, without any consideration for the severe repercussions a slight fluctuation in price will have on millions (and billions) of the world’s poor.
There is not a scarcity of food around the world, but rather a real crisis driven by the politics of ownership, use, access and control that cause global hunger. The 2007-08 food crises were more about global political, economic and social control, rather than any discernible food shortages. The techno-industrial bases have become organized around particular ways of producing and accumulating capital to meet private needs, rather than vital social and humanitarian necessities.
Political, social and economic domination by a small minority has become fundamental to the way our world functions and is the principal cause of hunger and inequitable distribution throughout the planet.
Africa will face the brunt of this new reality.
Thoughts are welcome!
The tumultuous times in which we live, with the “Arab Spring” in North Africa, the famine in the Horn, the birth of South Sudan and the myriad developments taking place throughout the Continent, make it a very interesting time to be an African.
This blog will focus on African political, economic, social and cultural developments.
I look forward to your comments and feedback!