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COMMUNAL NAVIGATION: DEVELOPMENT AND AUTO-CENTRICITY

If auto-centric development, capable of responding to the needs of all of the social strata of the nation ... is seen to be impossible on the periphery of the system, it is necessary to study another option of "alternative development", outside of the global constraints. This is the meaning of “delinking".

Samir Amin, Delinking: Towards a Polycentric World (1)

INTRODUCTION: AFRICA'S GENERAL CRISIS

DIS-INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT

Having initially revisited the original African Constitution, to ground ourselves in a "Southern" polity, we then reviewed tradition and modernity, at least in a Ghanaian context, as a means of integrally emerging from such, by interlinking the local, indigenous with the global, exogenous. We now turn to a more explicit means of navigating our way through development, from such a Southern perspective, building upon such prior grounding and emergence, with a view to an ultimately integral, political and economic effect. In other words, for us, de-linking needs to be followed by re-linking, in an integral way, one which Egyptian political scientist, Samir Amin, whom we have cited above, and will return to in Chapter 21 in a Middle Eastern context, currently director of the Third World Forum based in Dakar, terms "polycentric".

The absence of sustained progress in Africa's development, for Eritrean born, Kidane Mengisteab (2) – Professor of African and African American Studies at Penn State University – and its failure to stem the tide of its present crisis (even with reforms such as structural adjustment programmes – SAP's), raises questions about the appropriateness of development strategies and policies that the countries in the continent have pursued. No doubt different strategies and policies have failed for different reasons. However, the development crisis, he says, has a lot to do with the nature of African political and economic development strategies, which, for us as for him, have not been integral. For such an integral polity, in this instance, is not only one that is true to its "Southern" origins, in Africa in this case, but also emerges, navigates and ultimately effects development together with others, as equals, locally and globally.

Yet, and in "dis-integral" contrast, ever since their incorporation into the global economy, African economies have been characterized by extractive relations or the export of primary commodities. The gold exports of the Guinea Coast states (1400-1800); the exports of ivory, gold and slaves by the Abyssinian empire (13th to 18th centuries) and the states of Zimbabwe and Mutapa (13th to 17th centuries); the Atlantic and Indian

Ocean slave trade (1550s-1850s); and the export of ivory, palm oil and a variety of cash crops from different parts of Africa (replacing slaves after the delegalization of the slave trade) are among the major examples. The colonial state intensified the extractive relations, materially and economically, while detracting from human relations, culturally and spiritually, thereby failing to develop any form of integral polity. Political and economic strategies and policies largely corresponded to the extractive structures and were driven essentially be external demand. The nature of such changed little under the post-colonial state. The African historian Basil Davidson (3), whom we cited in Chapter 3, aptly expresses the dependency of African development models as follows:

Failures and futilities have occurred within a specific context of the attempt to develop Africa out of the history of Europe or America, and primarily for the benefit of Europe and America, rather than out of the history of Africa for the prime benefit of Africa.

Instead of transforming the peasantry and internally integrating African economies, the prescriptions of modernization theory (4) have largely perpetuated the neglect of the peasantry and the extroversion and duality of African economies. During the 1960s and 1970s some African states officially adopted "African socialism" and "self-reliance" as alternative development strategies. These strategies, which involve considerable structural transformation, can be regarded as efforts toward an auto-centric development approach. Such efforts, however, remained mostly symbolic, for Mengisteab, with little actual implementation.

For example, the peasantry's access to productivity-raising resources under the ujaama villagization scheme, as interpreted by the late and great Nigerian political scientist Claude Ake (5), of Nyerere's Tanzania – the most celebrated case of African socialism and selfreliance – was little different from those throughout Africa, notwithstanding Nyerere's humanistic intentions (see Chapter 4). Despite the differences at the level of rhetoric, they all pursued an urban-based and extroverted development strategy that neglected agriculture and rural transformation. Some African states also attempted to adopt a Marxian development strategy and nationalized the principal means of production. However, the political, economic and social conditions for Marxian socialist transformation were largely absent. Other socialist experiments, Angola and Mozambique in particular, were undermined by protracted civil wars, partly fuelled by external intervention typical of the post-war era.

LOSS OF SOVEREIGNTY

The state then, which by its failure, in Mengisteab's view, is largely responsible for Africa's general crisis, is presently under crisis itself. Weakened by dependent economic structures, burgeoning debt, growing marginalization within the global economy, and widespread poverty, the African state has found that internally its basis of efficiency has been severely eroded. It is increasingly challenged by ethnic or religious rebellions and by increasing protests and demands on the part of emerging civil society. For, as Gyekye has indicated, it has by and large not succeeded in combining African tradition with modernity.

External intervention by multilateral financial institutions (MFIs), the governments of the dominant powers, multinational corporations and a host of other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has also undermined the sovereignty and moral authority of the state. The African state has increasingly surrendered policy-making to external actors, especially the MFIs, the IMF and the World Bank. The MFIs, which generally (and often correctly) regard the African political elite as incompetent and unaccountable to its populations, have expanded their role in dictating policy to Africa. Ghana, for example, was one of the first African states to gain independence (1957). Ironically, the IMF now keeps its own resident representative in an office across the hall from the country's finance ministry (in the 1990s) to keep an eye on the country's reform programme.

The penetration by the MFIs, international NGOs and dominant powers does not stop at the level of the state. Many segments of Africa's civil society, for Mengisteab, are equally compromised and heavily influenced by foreign NGOs and dominant powers. Many African NGOs, for example, are essentially national chapters of international NGOs. However, relations between international and national NGOs as well as with the rest of the national civil society are by no means horizontal, and such unequal relations cannot be assumed to promote independent decision-making in Africa.

 
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