The Globe & Mail has an article up titled, “In case you missed it: This is the African Century”. If anyone is getting excited by the sarcasm oozing from the headline, anticipating a scathing critique of the hope/ful/less cliché of African futures, let me assure you that your enthusiasm is misplaced. In the language of post-World War 2 modernization theory, the article pronounces that African economies are in the process of “take-off” en route to accelerating through the stages of development required to reside in the world of ‘high mass consumption’. We just can’t extricate ourselves from the “they are what we once were” trope as the article celebrates that Africans are finally doing things (like commercializing agriculture and urbanizing) which were responsible for ending mass starvation in Europe and North America 200 years ago.
Is Africa in a perpetual state of behind or finally catching up to the developed world? True to modernization’s principles, the message is that if only they follow our lead, the goodies of modernity will manifest. Indeed, we learn from the article that more Africans now have phones than toilets. What are we to take from that? Africans may not be able to ablute and flush, but can connect to the world (or at least call their moms)? Articles like this serve nothing more than a dying capitalism. They help obscure the manner in which Africa has historically been integrated into global capitalism. They give succor to old ideas in an effort to refuse the potential for new ones.
In a more revealing move, the former police chief and now International Co-operation Minister, Julian Fantino on Friday pledged that a chunky portion of Canada’s development assistance would be administered through mining businesses. As the Globe & Mail reports, “… Over the past year, CIDA has funded a series of initiatives that match Canadian mining companies, including Barrick Gold and Rio Tinto Alcan, with non-governmental organizations – something the agency has hinted it could do more of in the future. In one project, CIDA and Barrick Gold each contribute half of the funding for World Vision’s work in a mining community in northern Peru, which is geared to helping local authorities use mine revenues to diversify the area’s economy. ” Company colonialism anybody?