The 2001 Dakar Manifesto had a simple but unassailable claim: the total and unconditional cancellation of the odious African debt.
Two recent incidents demonstrate in unembellished and unambiguous fashion how capitalism, to paraphrase the great Walter Rodney, continues to exploit and under-develop Africa. First, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office convicted a subsidiary of the Anglo-Swiss multinational corporation Glencore of paying millions of dollars in bribes to state-owned companies in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan, in order to buy privileged access to oil reserves. Meanwhile, in an address to his country, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana announced that he would be seeking help from the International Monetary Fund to aid an economy that was, as he put it, in “crisis.” In enumerating the causes of the crisis, President Akufo-Addo did not say that part of the problem was the IMF’s partner in financial crimes, the World Bank. Interest payments on a predatory 2015 $1 billion World Bank loan (managed by Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and Standard Charter) have compounded Ghana’s desperate economic situation.
Glencore has assets of $127.510 billion, a net income of $4.349 billion, and, as the world’s largest commodity trade, “global market share of 60% in internationally tradable zinc, 50% in internationally tradable copper, 9% in the internationally tradable grain market and 3% in the internationally tradable oil market.” Glencore was fined US$313.7 million, a sum reduced after they agreed to plead guilty. For the World Bank, there has been no consequences for their bare-faced fleecing of Ghana and other African nations, no consequences for the decades of imposed austerity budgets and structural adjustment programs that have prioritized Western creditors over citizens, made the repayment of foreign debts the highest goal of the state, and continued the history of the West’s underdevelopment of the African continent.
This is not, however, due to a lack of energy on the part of African activists and their allies. As writers like Walter Rodney and others have long argued, the question of odious debt, of illicit financial flows, of corruption and state capture, of revanchist extractivism, have long been part of the stable of practices constituting neocolonialism. When it comes to debt, in particular, the issue is not how to reform the regime of exploitative, predatory, and odious loans that constrict the fiscal operation and the social development of the continent. It is rather, as the Dakar Manifesto boldly argues, the “the total and unconditional cancellation of the African debt.” The Dakar Manifesto was the result of a December, 2000 meeting in Dakar, Senegal of hundreds of representatives from Africa, as well as Asia, Europe, and North and South America committed to the cancellation of Africa’s debt.
The Manifesto hinges on an unassailable logic: not only is Africa’s debt increasing underdevelopment, but given the long history of foreign exploitation and the continuing degree to which resources and wealth are stolen from the continent, Africa’s debt have have already been paid. In his address to the people of Ghana, President Akufo-Addo slid into French stating, “Fellow Ghanaians, as the French would say, l'argent n'aime pas le bruit, to wit, money does not like noise, sika mpɛ dede.” Certainly the executives of Glencore and the World Bank would attest to this as their profiteering has been done under the cover of cool and deadly silence. However, following the Dakar Manifesto – and those Ghanians who have taken to the streets to protest Akufo-Addo – it’s time to make some noise, and to expose those international speculators, swindlers, and loan-sharks who have stolen Africa’s money and continue a nasty history of exploitation and underdevelopment.
DAKAR MANIFESTO: Africa: from Resistance to Alternatives
THE TOTAL AND UNCONDITIONAL CANCELLATION OF THE AFRICAN DEBT is a demand based on undisputed economic, social, moral, legal and historical arguments. Because the debt problem is not a financial or technical issue as the World Bank and the IMF are tempted to demonstrate. It is fundamentally a human, social and political problem. Debt service and conditionalities associated to it have contributed to the aggravation of poverty. Moreover, the debt has been already been repaid: for the past few years, Africa has been transferring more resources to developed countries than she receives.
In addition, most of Africa's debt is odious, fraudulent and immoral. In fact, in most cases, debt has been contracted by not representative regimes that have used the amount received for purposes that have not served the interests of their peoples. Often, this debt served to consolidate and even legitimize dictatorships that used it to oppress their own people or to make war, with the benevolence and complicity of Western countries.
Debt has also been contracted to undertake mega projects designed to stimulate exportations at the expense of the satisfaction of people's fundamental needs.
The reimbursement of that debt is immoral: its service is diverting resources essential in the struggle against poverty, illiteracy and AIDS.
Thus, from whatever angle we consider the issue of Africa's debt, it is unacceptable. It is all the less acceptable that the historic debt that the West has incurred from Africa is immeasurable.
Accordingly, we demand both the restitution of what has been taken from Africa for centuries by sheer force and reparations for all the crimes and damages inflicted upon its people
Mobilized by the Amsterdam Appeal of April 2000, we representatives of women's movements, youth movements, rural and urban workers, and international solidarity, gathered from 11-14 December, 2000, in Dakar (Senegal), with the support of our partners of other continents,
- call again for the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the African debt
- demand the end to Structural adjustment Programs, even as they are renamed Poverty Reduction Strategy Programs (PRSPs)
- adopt the following program and promise to take all necessary measures for its implementation
1) SHORT AND MEDIUM-TERM PROGRAM
We call on social movements to increase the campaigns calling for the unconditional cancellation of Africa and other Third World countries' debt. We recommend the use of all opportunities to reinforce the pressure on Africa's debtors, by organizing or participating in initiatives of all kinds, to draw the attention of the world public opinion to the criminal nature of the policies imposed by the World Bank and the IMF to compel African countries to pay a "debt", several times reimbursed. All the meetings organized by these two institutions and major Western leaders (G7) as well as other international gatherings will be as many opportunities to show our determination. Simultaneously, we demand that our governments set up a coalition of debtor countries and repudiate external debt by using the sums so saved to the profit of their people.
To better implement the above policy, we will endeavor to strengthen the international network fighting against Third World debt. We will first attempt to strengthen the relationships between organizations committed to this struggle in Africa and in other developing countries as part of the Jubilee South movement. In fact, we think that the strengthening of such links constitutes one of the preconditions for the success of the campaign for debt cancellation. Solidarity between these organizations represents the base on which the solidarity between South and North organizations must be built. The strategic alliance with the latter constitutes a solid link in the chain of the world human solidarity for breaking the resistance and egoism of Western states and multilateral institutions.
In this respect, regional campaigns will be undertaken and articulated to international campaigns. We have to massively involve public opinion within each country in order to put decisive pressure on governments to make them rethink their relationships with the World Bank and IMF and to refuse debt repayment.
Solidarity among members of the network will be forged and reinforced through data exchanges, organizations of joint events, mutual assistance in the reinforcement of human and organizational capacities in order to be better prepared for a higher level of the struggle.
The credibility of the campaign depends on the ability of civil society organizations to articulate coherent strategies and to propose alternatives. Thus, the reinforcement of the civil society's capacity to intervene is an essential task whose implementation requires patient work.
Citizens movements must reinforce themselves so as to be in a position to not only refute creditors' arguments but especially to move the debate towards the center and identify the real issues.
2) STRATEGIC PROGRAM
1. Radical change of policies
It is essential to tackle the structural factors, which are at the roots of the debt crisis. In this respect, it is necessary to revisit from top to bottom the external borrowing policies, as well as the use made of the loans. When those loans are necessary, parliamentarian institutions must be involved and the issue must be debated.
Transparent and democratic rules must be applied under the control of the citizens. We must reduce as much as possible the use of external loans by mobilizing internal savings through a progressive fiscal policy, which compels the richest to contribute to the development efforts.
On the external level, it is necessary to act on several fronts. In order to stop or reverse the trend toward the deterioration of the terms of trade, one should set up mechanisms aimed at stabilizing the prices of raw material and commodities. Producers should form cartels to defend the prices of their products subjected to manipulation by big trading companies from the North. Likewise, international agreements of price stabilization should be negotiated under the aegis of the United Nations system. This would allow the increase in export incomes; limit the depletion of the natural resources and save the environment.
On the other hand, African countries should speed up their economic integration in order to reduce their external dependence, create the conditions for establishing a regional market capable of supporting a regional industrialization policy, which could promote export diversification, thanks to a greater value-added of local products. Integration should go hand in hand with the establishment of viable monetary areas in the different regions of the continent; the only means that will allow them to avoid the tyranny of foreign currencies on African economies
2. Reinforcing South-South Cooperation
South-South cooperation shall be considered as an essential stage by social movements and African governments. It will allow African countries to reinforce the trend for less dependence towards developed countries. In this perspective, we are urging African countries, members of the OAU to explore all existing possibilities, especially the recommendations of the South Commission Report, under the supervision of the late Julius K. Nyerere and to implement concretely the agreements concluded between them at the Sirte Summit (Libya) in 1999 regarding debt cancellation. The cooperation between G77, that between G15 countries and other forms of cooperation must be developed in all areas.
Social movements must accept, support and widely circulate treaties signed among countries of the South.
African countries and their partners from the South should convince the United Nations to undertake concerted measures to discourage international financial speculations whose devastating effects have been observed in South East Asia, Brazil and Russia in recent years. The imposition of the Tobin tax, the funds of which will be devoted to human development, the fight against money laundering (notably by ending bank secrecy), as well as the shutting down or the penalization of tax havens, constitute appropriate measures.
3. Restitutions and Reparations
Another section of the strategic agenda is the issue of restitution and reparation owed to Africa by Western countries. Slavery, colonization and the various forms of exploitation and wealth plundering have left Africa drained, and caused a tremendous economic, social, scientific and cultural backwardness of the continent. One cannot understand the situation of the continent without taking into account the destruction, robbing and plundering Africa has gone through because of Western countries.
>From that perspective, we are compelled to demand both the restitution of what has been stolen from Africa by sheer force and reparations for all the crimes and damages imposed on its people. Restitutions include cultural and scientific wealth.
In addition, we must repatriate ill-acquired wealth by African leaders and return them to the people that have been deprived of it. To achieve this objective, we have to use appropriate legal actions.
4. For an endogenous development
We must replace the notorious "Washington Consensus" now largely discredited, with a vision of development inspired by the values of the African political, social, cultural, economic and scientific Renaissance promoted by an African people's consensus. The fundamental values associated with this Renaissance include restoring confidence in Africans, rejecting all forms of exploitation and domination, reinforcing the culture of solidarity and the spirit of self-reliance, relying on the creative genius of the African people in order to create a new civilization of autonomous development so as to bring a great contribution to world civilization
The concept of endogenous development is to be conceived as a process of strategic reflection on the fundamental conditions of an African development, understood as a multidimensional emancipating project, i.e. on the economic, social, political, scientific and cultural and gender levels
The need for an approach to endogenous development proceeds from the basic historical fact that there is no "universal model", out of space and time, e.g., valid everywhere and at all time. Development depends on the history, culture and experience of a people. It cannot be a carbon copy of another experience, especially one based on a reductionist view of the true history of the people, full of abiding cultural prejudices and built on the domination, exploitation and looting of the resources of other peoples. The outlines of an approach to an African endogenous development could have, inter alia, the following essential features:
1. A human-centered development, in order to meet the real basic needs expressed by the African people. The experience of Africa reveals the failure of the neoclassical model imposed as a turnkey model. The more one talks about growth rate, the more poverty expands. Well, what is the use of "growth" which crushes human beings and increases poverty and exclusion? The truth is that the only kind of development is the one which contributes to the full blossoming of the human being. Understood from this perspective, development is first of all a qualitative and not purely quantitative phenomenon. It is no longer an unrestrained accumulation of wealth, often for a handful of people, but the permanent search of solutions to the basic problems of the majority of the people.
2. A development based, first and foremost, on our own vision of our future and the defense of our fundamental interests. Therefore, a development formulated and implemented by Africans themselves and according to their own priorities. In fact, the second fundamental break to take place is the rejection of an imported development, which treats our continent as a dumping ground where the waste of industrialized countries is thrown.
3. Another characteristic of the new approach to development is that it can no longer be an "elite" issue, but a participatory, inclusive and democratic development. Especially, it is a development relying on agriculture and the mobilization of the numerous human and material resources of this sector, understood at the same time by intellectuals and non-intellectuals, by the rural areas and the urban zones. This raises the issue of the African cultural Renaissance and the use of the African languages in the formulation and implementation of development programs. The introduction of African national languages would allow hundreds of millions of Africans to use their creative power in order to fully participate in crafting development strategies and policies. Without the conscious participation of the people in the definition of policies that affect their life and future, there will never be any development, because the people are the driving force of all economic and social transformation.
4. The new approach must also focus on the search for the continent's collective self-reliance on essential and strategic needs, at the agricultural and industrial level. For this, it is must be within African integration, a fundamental framework of sustainable endogenous development. It is a truism to say that without integration, Africa has no chance to develop. The vicissitudes of history have made Africa one of the most fragmented continents in the world. That is one of the essential factors for its backwardness and current marginalization.
In the 21st century, Africa will be African only if the continent completes its integration and acts with a unique and single voice in the concert of nations. This approach does not mean that Africa will isolate herself from the world. On the contrary, it is to ensure the participation of the people of the continent in an alternative globalization to the neoliberal globalization. We are in favor of a globalization based on a solidarity among people of the North and the South and giving priority to meeting basic human needs.
5. That is why Africa must renew the ideal of Pan-Africanism and base its practice on the principles and values of the African Renaissance. This also means that we should walk on our two feet, take agriculture as the basis of development and lay the ground for building a modern and efficient industry.
6. Another development means promoting and ensuring social justice, gender equality, democracy and respect for human rights. The high level of poverty and exclusion results from the bad influence of the "all for market" policy and the unrestrained search for private benefit, which pushed the State to abandon policy aimed at promoting equality and social justice.
7. Another development in Africa involves the creation of new development institutions, one of which is a new State ridden of its oppressive, exploitative and repressive colonial heritage. In fact, it is imperative to reconsider all institutions inherited from colonization and create instead new institutions consistent with an endogenous and autonomous approach to development. The State and most present institutions are of "elitist" type and carbon copies of their European counterparts. That is why they participate more in the repression and exploitation of the African people than in the creation of conditions allowing them to develop all their potential and to blossom. In fact, institutions created to enslave Africans would not, under any circumstances, serve to free them. Therefore, new institutions whose nature and functions are different from the ones inherited from colonization, are needed. It is necessary to put in place a new State, which will ensure equity between all and promote an integrated human development
8. The governance issue should be examined and resolved from that angle and not from the perspective recommended by Western countries, which aim only at making our institutions even more docile instruments to serve their interests. Citizens must conquer anew the ground lost by democracy. Institutions consistent with an endogenous development, designed by and for Africans, are the instruments for African peoples' liberation, institutions with which they will identify themselves closely, because they participated in their design, understood their nature and mastered their functioning.
The implementation of the above program requires radical breaks and major sacrifices from both African leaders and civil society organizations. The success of the African Renaissance is at this price.