Blind Spots in Analyzing Africa's Place in World Politics (Global INSIGHTS) by Global Governance

Blind Spots in Analyzing Africa's Place in World Politics (Global INSIGHTS)

By Global Governance

  • Release Date: 2004-10-01
  • Category: Politics & Current Events

Brief Description

In discussions of sub-Saharan Africa's relations with the outside world, critiques suggesting that the continent's elites are simply the victims of structural pressures and hence bereft of responsibility for Africa's current predicament are common. (1) Colonialism, neocolonialism, debt, structural adjustment programs (SAPs) and now "globalization" are all said to provide explanations for the continent's plight, while its leaders have been tacitly exonerated (or have absolved themselves) from almost all blame. Although there are numerous books criticizing SAPs, most authors are silent as to why SAPs were introduced in the first place--namely, gross malgovernace and the imminent bankruptcy of many states on the continent. (2) Attempts to rectify this state of affairs are often met with accusations of "Afro-pessimism" or worse. In doing so, such scholars effectively bolster the positions of elites such as Obiang Nguema, president of Equatorial Guinea, in his complaint that "Africa is the victim and not the guilty party. Our continent has suffered because of its huge mineral resources ... we are being prevented from achieving our aims because of foreign meddling and interference in our African affairs." (3) The tendency to solely blame external factors for the continent's predicament is, however, becoming less and less credible. This is not to say that external factors are irrelevant. Volatile commodity prices complicate economic policymaking and planning, and an unequal trading relationship helps to maintain Africa's marginalization, particularly with regard to subsidies and tariff and nontariff barriers in the developed world. External political intrigue, more common during the Cold War but still in evidence today, also has a pernicious effect on the continent. (4)

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