They called it “Compact with Africa”, but the president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, wanted to rename it the “Merkel Plan.” The core pillar of the German presidency in the G20, as well as the central theme of the Hamburg Summit on July 7th and 8th, “Compact with Africa”, looks like a massive initiative to strengthen private investment in Africa, “an essential precondition for strong, balanced and sustainable growth of the continent.”
“Not a trivial aid program for countries in the developing world,” has thundered repeatedly Merkel, but a program that aims to “a more inclusive globalization.” Words of the Minister of Economy Wolfgang Schäuble in Berlin.
It’s the old story where poverty is fought with great investments in the infrastructure, transport, energy and water sectors in the first place, and with privatization of existing ones.
In short, the mantra always used by the G20 that aims to mobilize private capital through apparent new forms of public-private partnership and financial mechanisms. Those same people are the main cause of repeated crises and the subsequent intensification of poverty. Yet, in the apparent myopia that underpins this vicious cycle, they activate the “usual suspects.”
World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank are in the lead, in order to negotiate specific action plans with each African country, as long as they are willing to implement adequate reforms “to improve the investment climate.”
The G20 is a candidate to seal this bond of amorous feelings, guaranteeing excellent potential for uncertain potential investors.
Old recipe, moldy ingredients, one might say. The increasingly less credible Club of 20, which did little to prevent crises like the one back in 2008, is proposed as the political template for excellence to create the financial infrastructure needed to improve living conditions in Africa. Or, even better, to revive the Dark Continent as a laboratory of the developmentalist narrative for everything concerning privatizations.
Let’s overlook the fact that the Compact for Africa has not learnt anything from the many negative experiences of the past, that is, the costs paid by the peoples in the name of development, the worsening of services, lack of transparency in the operations and contracts, the waiver of large democratic spaces and the increase in financial risks for the public.
Put aside even the “little detail” that “improving the climate for investors” means to resize the sovereignty of States in their function of investment regulators and the Compact for Africa neglects the already weak fixed financial constraints, for example, to ensure the sustainability under the Paris Agreement on Climate.
Let’s also try to forget that no one seems to care about how all this could be the starting point of a new crisis on African debt. So far, in fact, nothing new.
“Let’s help them at home,” is the only apparent novelty in a story that otherwise would appear written within the clichés of an era of structural adjustment, seasoned with sustainability, as a panacea for all ills.
The world has changed, we must adapt.
In the 80s and 90s, there were no terrorist attacks in the West, the Mediterranean was not a cemetery yet, the link between resource exploitation in Africa and security in Europe was not an issue, and the cynical, violent and racist hypocrisy of our government was not at all clear as it is today.
Our system feels under attack. In front of the threat of succumbing, even the feel-good rhetoric of aid in the name of solidarity is no longer enough. So, in the words of Chancellor Merkel, “improving conditions in Africa is equivalent to creating more security for us.”
Well aware that before the “every man for himself” prevailing Western philosophy, solidarity does not bring electoral benefits, with a clever move, the Chancellor transformed the crisis into opportunity, ensuring that private capital, foreign corporations, banks and investment funds can continue to plunder Africa for many years to come, with the assurance that now, as well as helping them, we even protect our security.
In this context, however, it suggests that the Compact for Africa initiative bursts on the global agenda, just as the Member States of the very unsafe Europe squabble on the migrant issue and scramble to lock down borders, when Italy shouts threateningly to close the ports of call, Germany investigates the NGOs for illegal immigration and almost everywhere, solidarity is about to be turned into an offense.
The King has no clothes on already, but perhaps he should strip down a bit more.
The world is a battlefield, the double standards in international relations has become the rule rather than the malicious exception, the criminalization of the “alien” has reached a point where even the mantra of “let’s help at home” is already old and it is now superseded by an explicitly xenophobic and Islamophobic drift. Nonetheless, we keep going to their home.
To sign multimillion contracts for large infrastructure projects, preferably without tenders, with military intervention masked as peacekeeping missions, pumping oil and gas until the planet is pumped out like a deflated balloon, and selling arms to repressive regimes, covering our eyes on where and how those same weapons will be used. So, later, cooperation will take care of development, of reconstruction.
But there are good news for those who say they rule us. They can stop their struggle to find more innovative ways to mask privatistic political choices with collective good. There is no need to invent dangerous balancing acts to save the shape or the face. Everything is clear, visible to everyone. Even to the millions of victims of globalization, in the South and in the North, that have never believed the story that globalization generates inclusion. And they will continue to do so, we suspect.