Posted by keith on July 11th, 2009
I was cleaning the front room and switched on the TV for a few minutes to reduce the boredom; the BBC News Channel was relaying some grainy, greenish-tinged footage of Barack Obama speaking to a large crowd in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Just another diplomatic speech, I thought, but I listened all the same. Clearly what I was listening to was the meat of the speech as, based on the White House release, I had missed the preamble.
But this was no mere diplomatic feel-good spiel; there was considerable substance, and menace, in these words:
America can also do more to promote trade and investment. Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way. And where there is good governance, we can broaden prosperity through public-private partnerships that invest in better roads and electricity; capacity-building that trains people to grow a business; and financial services that reach poor and rural areas. This is also in our own interest – for if people are lifted out of poverty and wealth is created in Africa, new markets will open for our own goods.
Say that again?
“we can broaden prosperity through public-private partnerships that invest in better roads and electricity”
Where have I heard that before? These were not the words of a caring, socially-responsible man: they were the words of the World Bank; an American-led organisation that exists primarily to lend money to governments in exchange for granting private companies the rights to operate and profit from public services. Companies like Bechtel, the largest private engineering firm in the world.
“If people are lifted out of poverty and wealth is created in Africa, new markets will open for our own goods.”
Oh, my goodness — I thought — he’s talking about Imperialism! This is essentially the same attitude that the British Government had when ably assisting the British East India Company for nearly 200 years during the most brutal periods of colonialism; using government policies to increase the wealth of corporations. The markets were opened, the people and resources were exploited, and the promised wealth for the people never materialised.
There is no need to read deeply into the speech to tease out this agenda; a section that followed shortly afterwards was enough to seal my suspicions:
One area that holds out both undeniable peril and extraordinary promise is energy. Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it is the most threatened by climate change. A warming planet will spread disease, shrink water resources and deplete crops, creating conditions that produce more famine and conflict. All of us – particularly the developed world – have a responsibility to slow these trends – through mitigation, and by changing the way that we use energy. But we can also work with Africans to turn this crisis into opportunity.
Together, we can partner on behalf of our planet and prosperity and help countries increase access to power while skipping the dirtier phase of development. Across Africa, there is bountiful wind and solar power; geothermal energy and bio-fuels. From the Rift Valley to the North African deserts; from the Western coast to South Africa’s crops – Africa’s boundless natural gifts can generate its own power, while exporting profitable, clean energy abroad.
And who, I may ask, will be running these giant engineering projects, and benefiting most from “Africa’s boundless natural gifts”? Certainly no large companies in Africa have the necessary expertise to set up a global trading system for energy; there are experts across the water who are straining at the leash to get out there. The spectre of biofuels hangs over that last paragraph too; relegated to the end, but the baby of corporations like Cargill, there is massive opportunity for profit from crops.
You don’t have to be terribly creative to suggest other massive “opportunities” for American companies, deified by Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr. and now Obama: there is timber, gold, gas, sugar, cocoa, constant war and disease-ridden populations, all lined up for the onslaught of corporate America. A brave new colonial future: but instead of being ruled by European nations, Africa ends up being ruled by corporations.
You wouldn’t expect a political leader to set out such an agenda in the clear, but with the words above, Obama has said enough to start the ball rolling. While millions of Africans remain in thrall of Obama’s “message of hope”; the real agenda setters are planning their next moves.