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Africa: Surviving the Global Jungle

New challenges and opportunities
The use of the images of �village� or �jungle� has decisive implications for Africa�s choice and strategy for action. In what follows, For clarity I summarise some of the features that distinguish a jungle from a village: A village is a low risk space; a jungle high risk. A village is compassionate and caring; a jungle hostile and ferocious. A village is inclusive; a jungle is restrictive. A village is regulated by rules; a jungle by power. A village is co-operative; a jungle competitive. A village is sharing; a jungle selfish. A village is communal; a jungle is individualistic. A village places value on honesty; a jungle on trickery. A village nurtures mutual help; a jungle �on your own�. A village is humanistic; a jungle materialistic. How Africa perceives the emerging world, will determine, in the words of Nyerere, whether it has a future or not. 

The marginalization of Africa�s people and centralization of resources creates new opportunities for the continent. As the bonds with the west loosen, the response is not to seek to re-tighten them through EPAs. Instead, Africa has at least two windows of opportunity. One is to embark seriously upon political unity. As Nyerere affirmed just before his death: �� leaders and people must work for unity with the firm conviction that without unity there is no future for Africa.� The centralization and fortification of political authority is a prerequisite for seizing the opportunity to forge new relationships particularly with the rapidly growing economies of China and India. 

A symbiotic relationship can be established with these emerging economies to create a new and radically different economic space for Africa. These economies have a high demand for raw materials which Africa still possesses while Africa suffers from a major deficit in technology. Rather than exporting Africa�s resources in return for foreign exchange earnings, Africa should negotiate resource-for-technology and production sharing deals. It is the combination of these two windows holds the prospects for fundamental and sustainable transformation.

The current global transition period can best be understood in a Gramscian framework: �The old is dying and the new can not be born, in this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.� This period is ridden with multiple contradictions presenting various challenges, threats and opportunities. Sometimes these may occur in complex and interwoven combinations. On one hand, the old rules, institutions, norms and values are in crisis and losing their legitimacy and effectiveness; in a word dying. The Breton Woods, UN and WTO systems are stuck in this interregnum. The fate of the interminable WTO Doha process is a typical morbid symptom. 

On the other hand, however, the birth of new forces, interests and power configurations is blocked by interests that remain entrenched in the old order. The current economic crisis in Europe and the United States; the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; the tensions between the West and Russia, China and India are all expressions of the interregnum. In Marxist-Leninist terms, that should herald a time of social revolution. Could the current mass protests sweeping across the Arab world and the more recent riots in London, be the harbingers of imminent fundamental global change? 

From the African historical and contemporary experience, globalization is more of a jungle than a village. Rule of the jungle means the rule of might rather than right. Witness the illegal tributary war in Libya! Survival in the jungle depends on forcer and yet the lack of power is Africa�s defining characteristic. This does not mean that Africa should or can, indeed, opt out of the globalization process. But it does call upon Africa to build a power base with awareness that globalization engenders more threats and challenges than opportunities.


In order to survive in the global jungle, therefore, Africa must adopt a two pronged strategy. We must brave the threats while creating opportunities. Both require Africa to pool its sovereignty. If African Unity has floundered because of the misperception that Africa has can proceed slowly and gradually, that can no longer be defended. The imperative of African unity has never been more compelling, urgent, and clear! It is not affection, gain or hegemony that necessitate unity. What faces Africa is the threat to its very survival. It is an existential threat. If Nkrumah were writing his book today the title would read: �Africa Must Unite or Die�. Time is of the essence!

Specifically Africa needs to come together to be able to respond to the five Rs as the specific challenges we face as the security challenges of our time. They are Resource Nationalism; Regionalization of political authority; Revitalization of economies, Reinvigoration of societies and Repositioning of the continent.

Resource nationalism is a trend that has emerged and is growing in Latin America. Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela symbolise this trend that is quickly becoming a movement. It is responding to demands from disenchanted citizens for a larger share of the proceeds of their countries� resources. In Africa this trend has yet to catch on but the struggle in the Niger Delta is indicative of what could be a trend. It needs to be promoted by all governments that profess to care about the welfare of their people. As we pointed out earlier, the main argument for this new nationalism arises from the very logic of global change. Globalization is intensifying and centralizing the exploitation of Africa�s resources while at the same time marginalizing Africa�s people and alienating them from these resources. Resource nationalism should not simply be aimed at control but also creating new opportunities with new partners such as �resources-for-technology� deals with China and India.

Regionalization in Africa has been around for quite sometime without showing any meaningful results either in terms of promoting economic development or increasing political coherence. This is partly because the question of centralising political authority a la Nkrumah has been eschewed. So far the cart has been put before the horse. From our experience it ought to be realised that political union or pooled sovereignty is the only effective strategy to realising economic transformation � not the other way round. It is only through this that regional planning and the creation of a new division of labour in Africa is possible. Trade integration must be replaced by production integration. 

Revitalizing the economies of African countries is an urgent task. Over the years dynamic economic activity has been sacrificed on the altar of the structural adjustment policies. Excessive preoccupation with macro-economic stability has diverted policy attention from the producer and has failed to stimulate domestic consumption. That is why agriculture is criminally neglected. It is the revitalization of agriculture which can stimulate domestic consumption through increased incomes to farmers. Revitalization not only refers to the development of the forces of production but also diversifying the composition of the agricultural product.

Reinvigoration of society. As external dependence has grown national leaderships have abandoned long-term visions that can give their people hope and confidence in the future. As national societies have disintegrated African societies have lost collective creative energy. This has resulted in cynicism and desperation towards social development. Politically populations have become demobilized and largely quiescent. Democratization alone is not succeeding in reinvigorating the people. Indeed, in some countries, the democratization project is either stalled as in Kenya or in reversal as in Tanzania. In some communities some of the energy that could be channelled into creative activity has been turned inwards towards self-destruction as is the case in Burundi. In other situations polarized communities are at loggerheads in a Darwinian struggle for survival with dwindling resources. The conflict in Darfur, for example, carries an element of struggles between pastoralists and farmers. These conflicts which are repeated across the region, are symptomatic of the general crisis in resource access and utilization.. In brief the combination of deepening poverty, resource depletion, social fragmentation and community polarization has fuelled many of the conflicts in the continent. Legitimate government by consenting citizens is being replaced by minimalist rule of law and outright coercion. Africa needs a vision that can reinvigorate the people, restore hope and confidence give them a sense of direction to brave the future.

Repositioning occurs where a country which has either lost its vitality or its position altogether in the international division of labour seeks and creates a new position and role in order to restore or even enhance its advantage. East Africa�s traditional role has been in the production and export of agricultural commodities. Given the collapsing markets and secularly declining prices for these commodities Africa needs either new markets or new commodities. It will have to do both and in both cases looking East rather than west. 

By Prof. Mwesiga Baregu 

Professor of Political Science and International Relations at St. Augustine University of Tanzania.