It is indisputable that many factors have hampered development in Africa.
Are engagement and reengagement the solutions to our woes?
Development entails change for the better in all aspects (social, economic and mental) of an individual’s life, and therefore that of the nation. Engagement entails seeking dialogue with other nations and actors on the international arena on political, social and economic issues while reengagement involves efforts to resuscitate and/ or revive failed dialogue.
China’s recent interests in engaging African states in trade, offering loans for the resuscitation of ailing African economies is a form of exploitation of the poor or weaker African countries. In Andre Gunder Frank’s theory of development, he laments the exploitation of poor countries by the core nations or the superpowers in other words. China is a force to contend with on the international trade market. During the China- Africa summit, it extended a hand of ‘friendship’ and loans to Africa states. Unfortunately, these states are crippled with debt, as they are unable to service both the IMF and World Bank debts.
The Zimbabwean economy is badly in need of capital injection in its depleted reserves and revive the ailing agriculture and manufacturing sectors. It has received a lot of ‘aid’ which will always come at a cost to the nation given that China’s aid (loans at alarming interest rates and stakes in real estate, land, mining and agricultural sectors.)
After the late former President Robert Mugabes’s ouster in November 2017, his successor President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa sought to mend ties that his predecessor had severed with Zimbabwe’s former colonial master, Britain as well as with other Western superpowers such as the United States of America. Conflicting ideology (socialism versus capitalism) and the much-disputed Land Reform Programme, which saw many white farmers losing their land as the Government of Zimbabwe, acclaimed that it had been unfairly distributed and acquired.
President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has globetrotted: attending summits and conferences to plead Zimbabwe is and ask that sanctions on Zimbabwe be lifted amidst claims that Zimbabwe has revisited its domestic and foreign policies as well as remedied the ills that were prevalent in Mugabe’s reign including oppressive media reforms and gross human rights violations. The heavily flawed ‘Free and fair’ elections were held in 2018 and they were conducted under the observance of local, regional and international observers. In addition, they were also ‘endorsed” as free and fair by the international observers, some of whom only complained after reaching the safety of their countries or safer destinations from where they could freely voice their sentiments.
Without a doubt, financial aid will be granted should the IMF, World Bank, and other major financial institutions controlled by the superpowers deem the reforms made by the Government of Zimbabwe as satisfactory. Reengagement then becomes crucial. Zimbabwe’s economy is mainly agro-based and with the ever-increasing population, there is need to boost agricultural production as well as shift to manufacturing so that the economy and therefore the population does not suffer in seasons of low yield. This is in line with the Modernisation theory which promotes the need to advance to modern and therefore mechanised agricultural and manufacturing production.
Like Gunder-Frank, Wallerstein, in his World Systems Theory posits the presence of not two but three types of states: the core the periphery and the semi-periphery. His theory is an extension of the Dependency theory as it acknowledges the existence of the semi-periphery countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which act as links or bridges between countries in the core such as Germany and the USA, and countries in the periphery such as Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Rwanda.
China then provides a market for inferior clothing, which most Africans and South Americans can barely afford. Most products that are manufactured from the raw materials that are procured in Africa and South America. Not only do the superpowers or countries in the core exploit us; China exploits us by bargaining for even lower prices for procuring cotton and gemstones for example. Zimbabwe is rich in minerals and China buys gemstones such as Howlite, leopard rock and tiger’s eye. After processing these into jewellery, most Zimbabweans cannot afford this jewellery.
India as a country in the semi-periphery ‘exploits Bhutan for its hydro-electric power’ which it (India) uses sustain its manufacturing industry. It even has army bases in Bhutan and Madagascar and in a way, this renders these two countries servile or compromised should relations sour. It would be very easy for India to topple or overthrow them on the basis of its military strength and very presence in their countries. This is a form of neo-colonialism and what Karl Marx calls The exploitation of the poor by the rich. India is the capitalist and Madagascar and Bhutan are the poor whose labour, land and other natural resources are being exploited so India can remain economically and militarily superior.
In conclusion, engagement and reengagement cannot be undermined in Africa’s development as well as in addressing the problems that it is facing. If both processes result in aid that is meaningful, facilitates the signing of trade agreements and treaties and is beneficial to all concerned then they should be prescribed in Development. However, it is essential that African leaders be wary of what they sign and agree to. In addition, there is need for regional and continental cooperation and integration to safeguard our very African-ness, our natural resources (and wealth thereof) and ultimately, our sovereignty.
Thembani Thokozile Munyanyi