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VICE: POST-COLONIAL COLONIALISM: The West Extorts Way More Money from Africa Than It Gives in Aid June 16, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Many decades after the official end of the western empires in Africa, the continent is still being sucked dry by a cartel made up of small local elites, multi-national companies and foreign governments. The money given to Africa to help its so-called “development” is referred to as “aid”, when in fact it should be seen as a form of reparations for a history of colonisation and ongoing domination that has left the African people almost as far from economic and social justice as they were when the European empires packed up and left in the years following the end of the Second World War.

POST-COLONIAL COLONIALISM
The West Extorts Way More Money from Africa Than It Gives in Aid

By OSCAR RICKETT, VICE, Jun 15 2017



We should be putting our western guilt to good use and pressuring government to regulate “investment” in the continent.


The world’s second-largest continent, Africa, is still defined in the western media in just two principle ways.

The more “woke” understanding of Africa is the idea of “Africa Rising”, which is defined by images of young people on bustling streets speaking on mobile phones. “Africa Rising” stories tend to focus on smart entrepreneurs doing something tech-related in massive urban centres like Lagos, Nairobi or Cape Town. They promote an image of the continent that is considered modern and future-focused. These stories are often, as the Kenyan journalist Parselelo Kantai once put it to me, “insidious little fictions manufactured by global corporate finance”.

The other main narrative is the more familiar one: hapless Africa, the tragic continent that can only continue to survive with the help of aid money provided to it by outsiders. This is the narrative of Live Aid and Bono, the story told to us immediately after news reports of famine and unrest in places that, we are made to believe, just can’t get by without western charity.

Given these two themes, it would seem unlikely that more money is taken out of the 47 countries that form what is commonly called “Sub-Saharan Africa” than is put back in. Yet, British and African campaign groups, including Global Justice Now, released a report this month which found that, in 2015, much more money was taken out of Africa in the form of illegal extraction of natural resources, tax avoidance and spiralling interest on debt repayments than was “given” to the continent in the form of aid and grants.

The report, entitled Honest Accounts 2017 , finds that the countries of Africa are “collectively net creditors to the rest of the world, to the tune of $41.3 billion [£32.2 billion] in 2015”.

Rather than Africa being a hapless continent dependent on the rest of the world, it is the exploited continent whose natural resources are enriching a local and global elite at the expense of the vast majority of its citizens, and whose governments can do little about the illegal syphoning of revenue into tax havens.

According to War on Want, 101 (mostly British) companies listed on the London Stock Exchange control an identified $1.05 trillion (£820 billion) worth of resources in Africa in just five commodities: oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. Twenty-five of those companies are incorporated in tax havens.

While African countries receive around $19 billion (£14 billion) in aid in the form of grants, $68 billion (£53 billion) is taken out in capital flight. The main culprits are multinational corporations and corrupt officials with their large infrastructure of lawyers, bankers, accountants and financial advisors skilled in tax dodging.

The main device used is transfer pricing. By overpricing imports and under-pricing exports on customs documents, companies and individuals can move money to tax havens. This means that multi-national companies deliberately misreport the value of their imports or exports in order to reduce the tax they have to pay on them. Furthermore, these same companies repatriate $32 billion (£25 billion) in profits made in Africa to their home countries every year. Money made on the continent of Africa, then, is returned to enrich those outside of Africa.



The report goes on to say that African governments paid out $18 billion (£14 billion) in debt interest and principal payments in 2015. Though they received $32.8 billion (£25.6 billion) in loans, the overall level of debt is rising rapidly, and loans often lock African governments into even more debt: private lenders, the report notes, “are encouraged to act irresponsibly because when debt crises arise, the IMF, World Bank and other institutions lend more money, which enables the high interest to private lenders to be paid, whilst the debt keeps growing”. Ghana is losing 30 percent of its government revenue to debt repayments. Private lenders benefit, while ordinary Africans suffer.

Illegal logging, fishing and the trade in wildlife and plants are also hurting Africa, with an estimated $29 billion (£22.6 billion) a year being stolen from the continent through these practices. Climate change is hitting the continent particularly badly; though of course the extractive and industrial practices that led to climate change were a phenomenon of non-African countries.

As Bernard Adaba, policy analyst with ISODEC in Ghana, says: “‘Development’ is a lost cause in Africa while we are haemorrhaging billions every year to extractive industries, western tax havens and illegal logging and fishing. Some serious structural changes need to be made to promote economic policies that enable African countries to best serve the needs of their people rather than simply being cash cows for western corporations and governments.”

Many decades after the official end of the western empires in Africa, the continent is still being sucked dry by a cartel made up of small local elites, multi-national companies and foreign governments. The money given to Africa to help its so-called “development” is referred to as “aid”, when in fact it should be seen as a form of reparations for a history of colonisation and ongoing domination that has left the African people almost as far from economic and social justice as they were when the European empires packed up and left in the years following the end of the Second World War.

Recognising the troubling role western governments and companies play in the impoverishment of Africa could serve as a beginning to reverse this process. The Honest Accounts report proposes a number of steps that can be taken to help reverse the flow of money out of Africa, including putting less faith in the extractives industry, enabling transparent and responsible lending and regulating the investment that corporations bring in to African countries.

Tax havens are a key issue, one that was recognised in Labour’s election manifesto, which said that the “current global tax system is deeply unjust”. Jeremy Corbyn’s party promises to “act decisively on tax havens”, which play a key role in allowing vast sums of money to be taken out of Africa. The UK enablesthis wealth extraction to take place and sits at the head of a vast network of tax havens.

Finally, there is the need for more public recognition of what is going on. This is not about stoking up western guilt; it is about identifying the causes behind rising inequality in Africa and elsewhere, and about correcting a lazy media narrative that patronises and insults Africans while keeping everyone in a state of ignorance. The truth is this: Africa is still being plundered. It is time western governments and the western media stopped pretending otherwise.

 


 

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DW: Africa’s new sovereign debt crisis March 25, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Africa’s new sovereign debt crisis


Mail & Guardian Africa, 21 March 2017


Mozambique is the first major African nation in recent times to become unable to meet obligations to international creditors

A decade after the last major debt write-down, African states are again in difficulties. (DW/M. Sampaio)
A decade after the last major debt write-down, African states are again in difficulties. (DW/M. Sampaio)

Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 group of the world’s most influential industrialised and emerging economies met in Baden Baden, Germany on the 17/18 March. The German NGO Erlassjahr.de (Jubilee Germany), which campaigns for debt relief, saw this as an opportunity to draw attention to the growing debt problems of many developing countries. The NGO has identified as many as 40 African countries which are showing signs of heavy indebtedness.

“This is not surprising because today’s economic indicators are telling a story very similar to the situation in the late 1970s and early 1980s which led to the Third World debt crisis,” said Jürgen Kaiser, political coordinator at Jubilee Germany. In the wealthy industrialised countries, interest rates are very low, but in Africa investors can fetch returns of between seven and 15 percent.  This leads to large capital flows from the North to the South.

The debt trap: declining commodity prices
“The low interest rates encourage countries to take out big loans which they then have difficulty paying back,” Kaiser said. The situation becomes particularly precarious when commodity prices fall. This leads to a subsequent decline in tax revenue in economies that are dependent on oil, natural gas, coal or other raw materials.

This latest debt crisis may come as a surprise to some people because numerous developing countries had a large share of their debts written down under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.  However, commentators who were convinced at the time that that this initiative launched by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the G-8 group of leading industrialised nations, including Germany, would solve the developing nations’ debts problems turned out to be wrong.

Mozambique insolvent again despite debt relief
Figures released by Jubilee Germany show how unsustainable the HIPC initiative was. Among the 40 African states where the indebtedness indicators were flashing red, 26 went through the HIPC program. One of those countries was Mozambique. In January 2017, the country ceased paying back its debts on time. In 2012, Mozambique’s obligations to its creditors amounted to 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), they now total 130 percent. Banks and investment funds were keen to lend Mozambique money believing it would be safe because the country possesses huge reserves of coal and natural gas. Those investors have been left empty-handed.

Debt explosion in Angola, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa
“Mozambique is a very dramatic case. It is the first country to cease repayments in such an abrupt significant manner since HIPC debt relief,” said Jürgen Kaiser. “But countries such as Gambia or Ghana, which also have an abundance of natural resources, are in a very critical situation as well. Senegal, which does not have much in the way of natural resources, is also in difficulties once again,” he added.

On analysing World Bank data of African nations’ indebtedness with foreign countries, it quickly becomes apparent that a large number of African economies have recently acquired dramatic levels of new debt. Between 2005 and 2015 – the most recent year for which figure are available – Angola, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa have witnessed a threefold increase in their debt levels. Smaller countries such as Cape Verde also borrowed fresh capital during this time frame.

The solution: international insolvency proceedings?
Currently there is no internationally recognised set of proceedings to settle the affairs of a country which has become insolvent. Many countries have such mechanisms for individuals and companies, but all attempts to create insolvency proceedings for sovereign states have been blocked by a lobby consisting of banks and nation states.

IMF Managing Director Anne Kruger proposed the creation of a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism in 2001. It would have been administered by the IMF, but the proposal was blocked by the United States. It wasn’t the only proposal. In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution “towards the establishment of a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring processes.” There were 124 votes in favor, 41 abstentions and 11 votes against. This resolution was non-binding and the chances of it being implemented are slim. One of the 11 states that voted against it was Germany.

“That could have been a mechanism that could have helped us move forward right now,” said Jürgen Kaiser referring to Africa’s present debt crisis. “Insolvency proceedings would mean that it wouldn’t be just the creditors who would decide when debts should written down on or not. In the past that practice has led to debt relief being dispensed too late, on too small a scale, or not at all.

Sovereign debt restructuring was not on the agenda of the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers at the weekend, but if more developing countries follow Mozambique’s example and default on loan repayments, then it could be that G-20 will be forced to tackle the issue of debts levels.