Hope Floats

The Globe and Mail's opinion page promotes outmoded and discredited ideas about modernization about African development.

Main street, Paoua, north west Central African Republic (UK Department of International Development).

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?

Further Reading

Beyond the headlines

Recent violence across the Eritrean diaspora is being instrumentalized by populists. But the violence is a desperate cry for attention and requires the Eritrean opposition to seize the moment for regime change.

Action required

Held in Nairobi this month, the inaugural Africa Climate Summit is an important step for the continent’s response to climate change. Still, the disasters in Libya and Morocco underscore that rhetoric and declarations are not enough.

The strange non-death of Bantustans

That South African political parties across the spectrum were quick to venerate the politician and Zulu prince Mangosutho Buthelezi, who died last week, demonstrates that the country is still attached to Bantustan ideology.

Shifting the guilt

Even though Israeli novelist Agur Schiff’s latest book is meant to be a satirical reflection on the legacy of slavery and stereotypes about Africa, it ends up reinforcing them.

Banana Republics

Western leftists are arguing among themselves about whether there will be bananas under socialism. In Africa, however, bananas do not necessarily represent the vagaries of capitalism.