Monday, 9 May 2016
The New Scramble for Africa - Padraig Carmody
Author: Padraig Carmody
Publisher: Polity Books
Africa is a continent that has almost unlimited potential. Rife with both resource and human capital, it has however been limited in its realization of said potential due to the legacy of colonialism, rampant and systemic corruption within a majority of its governments/institutions and a resulting failure to translate its resource based economy into manufacturing. African leadership and its wealthy elite, looking to draw financial advantage from the potential of their countries, have now embarked upon a comprehensive sacrifice of their nations' birthright through the selling off of their resources to resource hungry second and first world nations. Carmody's book has undertaken a study of the history, causes, effects and potential outcomes of this new pillaging of Africa at the hands of a few for greed and short term gain.
The author commences his review by setting the stage through an analysis of the history of Africa's engagement with the east and west. Following the end of colonialism, the continent was a battle ground of proxy wars between the West and Soviet Bloc. During this time, governments were supported not for their effectiveness but for their willingness to undertake operations for one side or the other. However, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a gradual change transpired whereby western support and investment for governments became more closely aligned with accountability and transparency. Ironically, it was this insistence upon openness that created the opportunities for a resurgent Russia, emerging China and the EU to create markets for themselves. Unlike a majority of the west, which, concurrent with its demands for more accountability suffered a reduction in economic clout, cash rich China et al jumped into the breach with an approach that precluded any demand for change in the corrupt national leaderships. Their realpolitik approach sought advantage wherever it could be found for the betterment of their national goals. Carmody's overview of this is comprehensive and disturbing.
He then goes on to look in greater detail at the kinds of exploitation that are being undertaken with a specific emphasis on the role that China is now playing on the Continent. Attention is paid to the economic interests being sought after with a focus on timber, fishing, uranium, cobalt, food products, fuels and biopiracy. In each case, advantage is being taken over weak central governments and deep corruption in order to feed and furnish domestic demands. Carmody identifies not only the methods undertaken by these foreign powers but also the secondary and tertiary impacts on the African domestic markets and populations of these actions. As an example he discusses the impact of rampant illegal fishing within the EEZ of Somalia. Foreign factory fleets have, as a result of Somalia’s inability to enforce its territorial waters, been able to not only pillage this resource but also to undermine the domestic fishing industry of Somalia. Desperate fishermen have then turned to piracy to try and recoup their losses.
Carmody's book is an extremely disturbing insight into the present day "Scramble for Africa" and its impact upon indigenous populations. Western powers especially are quick to jump on the symptoms of this malaise (such as piracy) but very slow to respond to the underlying causes of these behaviours. Well researched and logically presented, Carmody's book, while five years old, identifies the pattern that has been followed since then with predictable results. An extensive bibliography and notes section provide ample additional reading options.