Something that keeps popping its head up from time to time, is the effect this Corona Virus quarantine and lock down is having or going to have on global economies and the economy of Afrika as a whole. In the face of the slowdown in commercial activity worldwide, the Capitalist system has, yet again, been put under the microscope. When faced with business closures, selective sales of goods, increased manufacturing of health and Covid-19 related medical products and income generation in a time of isolation, one of the first things that the US did for its businesses was to approve a financial stimulus package. This was intended to protect American businesses and prevent job losses during the quarantine period. However, the US is still seeing large numbers of people apply for unemployment benefits and many have questioned whether these large businesses which were the recipients of the stimulus, will actually be faithful to the intent of the release of the USD 1T. According to a Reuters article, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres is already calling on leaders to “do everything in their power to cushion the impact of the pandemic” and the UN warns of the “economic hardship experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn” that they say could result in the additional deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. In Afrika, not every country went in the direction of a total lock down because they are simply unable to sustain their people who are largely low-income earners, many of them dependent on a daily wage and therefore required them to keep working.
Capitalism is entirely dependent on workers to generate products and services and the markets in which to trade these for money. It must have sellers and buyers who create the requisite supply-demand tension to generate sales which in turn allow loan repayments to financial institutions and payouts to the government in the form of taxes, which are then used to run countries and the global economy. With the requirement for traders and workers to cease their primary activities, economies around the world are experiencing a downturn because production and demand are down, therefore the necessary revenues cannot be generated from regular trading activities. Farmers, for instance, are either destroying their outputs, plowing them back into their farms or re-purposing them into other products with longer shelf lives. Much of what is being produced is either going to waste or being sold at prices that neither favor the seller nor give regard to his or her cost of inputs. I read somewhere that in the US there are situations where there is surplus of food in one area of the country and lack in another but the surplus will go to waste because of supply chain issues.
In short, Capitalism cannot survive a long-term shutdown, which is why many governments are looking for ways to reopen quickly, because this crisis is more than likely to drag down several economies around the world with it. Thanks to globalization, most economies are inter-linked and every single sector is affected: banking and finance, health, manufacturing, travel and tourism, education, food production and agriculture, telecommunication, BPO, consulting services, petroleum, construction, transportation, logistics, real estate, events etc. Right now, most countries have already gone into self-preservation mode and because the resources in people’s hands are scarce, whatever is being spent is being used to secure items deemed to be of greatest necessity. Businesses which were not robust enough to withstand the shock of the global shutdown and were not recipients of any form of financial stimulus have either reduced salaries or terminated workers that they can no longer sustain. Airlines, hotels and restaurants were the first to pay the price as global travel was restricted very early on, with the exception of cargo flights and hotel facilities being used as quarantine centers. ‘Rich’ countries have even suspended loan repayments from ‘poor’ countries for the moment.
This whole impending economic crisis is only a crisis because the world prioritized foolish things over necessities. As people sit in their houses, their cars sit outside, idle; as pastors remain cloistered in their mansions, their jets remain parked in hangars; as people’s movements are restricted, holiday homes remain empty and huge shopping malls, office complexes and factories lie silent or at much lower capacity; as public gatherings are prohibited, costly, fancy garments gather dust in wardrobes and politicians’ helicopters remain grounded. From the king to the beggar, all people have finally realized that they all have something in common: simple needs for clean fresh water, clean fresh air, clean fresh and healthy food, safe places to stay, reliable sources of heat and light, excellent sanitation, practical clothing and a friendly smiling face or voice to offer companionship, comfort, encouragement and reassurance.
When push comes to shove, it’s not status, money, things, competition, greed, excess and self-centeredness that we need. No. It’s love and fellowship and things to sustain the physical body and strengthen the spirit-man. God has finally shown us what it is like to simplify using this lock-down.
Afrika. We have glorified the wrong things and it’s time we admitted it. We have deceived ourselves and our youth, misleading them to believe in this dream that Western countries have themselves been unable to sustain. Why continue lying to ourselves about lifestyles that add no value to us as a people? As I write this, I’m watching a documentary on Al Jazeera about pollution in Johannesburg from a uranium mine that is adversely affecting the health of the local community. I’m sure that when the mine was first set up, the owners had in mind the tremendous profits that they would be making. They gave no regard to where they dumped this huge pile of uranium powder, to the point of creating a massive hill of waste. As a consequence, little children, adults, livestock, water, air, soil, all are polluted with lead, uranium and arsenic, causing horrible health effects like neurological disorders. And that’s just one sub-sector of the mining sector and only one mine in only one city, in only one country in Afrika. And this is happening because someone decided that profit outweighed Ubuntu. Profit over people… and purposeless living. That’s Capitalism for you.
Global Financial Crisis
I sat in on a webinar where an expert in financial markets spoke about an impending financial crash, saying that it would center on European banks and have a global impact. He said that this Corona Virus situation is only going to serve as a catalyst of a collapse that the European banking sector has been trending toward for years. His expectation is that this crash will take place this year. As a matter of fact, another crash after the 2008 global financial crisis has been anticipated for years. A senior Afrikan official in the banking sector said to me that his expectation is that Afrika would be cushioned from the initial effects of such a crash were it to happen, much like in 2008, Afrika is still a peripheral player. This is why I always say thank God that Capitalism and its systems of control in Afrika are not at the standard the rest of the world thinks they ought to be. This relative air-gapping, which people consider to be backwardness, is our constant saving grace. The second wave of effects following a crash would be for most countries outside of Afrika to focus on stabilizing and rebuilding their own economies, meaning that Afrika would likely see the backs of their heads in areas of investment and foreign aid for a time – unless we had something they needed in which case they would try get it on terms favorable only to them.
In an evidently vulnerable world system, made more so by the current situation, the same world system that Afrika has been trying to emulate and conform to since ‘independence’ six or so decades ago, having modeled its economies on the rest of the world’s standards… what, will Afrika do if there is a crash added onto the tail end of this crisis? Will the worn out, overused begging bowls come out again?
You already know that the whole world (Afrikans included) was waiting for the entire continent of Afrika to fall sick, but now they have also claim that Afrikan countries are facing what Quartz Africa calls ‘the very real possibility of economic collapse in the face of a global recession’. No one out there seems to believe that we can weather any storm. Very few in here seem to as well. Afrika, in the eyes of the world, is the pathetic, desperate, helpless thing that always needs bailing out. Sixty years and billions of dollars in cash, raw materials and Afrikan brain and muscle power that we have given to the world and their perspective remains that we are pathetic. It doesn’t help that our own leaders keep going out to beg for what we already have and can sort out between the approximately 1.2 billion of us internally. And because of the brush they painted us with as Afrikans, a couple of French doctors think the continent’s only value is to be used as a giant lab to test a poisonous vaccine and Chinese people are now being fed and eagerly consuming the lie that the black people are the cause of Corona Virus and are engaged in racist acts against our people and our governments – well, they’re trying to preserve their relationships with China – and the British and Kenyan government think that Kenya is a suitable testing ground for a potential vaccine. That, my darlings, is the icing on the cake. Our ‘friends’ are not our friends. We’re on our own and we have to face it and make a plan.
In a famous quote attributed to Vladmir Putin, certain painful truths are laid out, I have picked a small selection of what was said, “Africa will never be independent because they believe in Europeans, Americans and Chinese more than themselves.” The quote continues, “They are their own enemies. They hate each other and this gives their colonial masters the opportunity to continue exploring their resources.” And, “As far as I know, Africa is more of God’s chosen continent, it’s a blessed continent and it’s time for Africans to realize they are in a place where Americans, Europeans and Chinese are jealous of and wish it should be them there…You can’t compare African weather with any other weather…African soil can feed the whole of Europe, America, and Asia but their problem is just one, their leaders. As far as I am concerned their best president ever was Gaddafi”. He’s right. According to the World Economic Forum (2016) Afrika has 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, yet it is a net importer of food, grapples with food security and undernourishment.
Dr. ArikanaChihombori-Quao, former Permanent Representative of the African Union Mission to the US was relieved of office for what we all know were political reasons. It is my view that she was just what the continent and the AU needed. A fearless voice, willing to spill all the beans and tear away the veils of lies that had been used to keep Afrikans trapped in a neo-colonialist gaol for the life sentence of having what the world wanted and decided to take by force. Among other things, the doctor revealed the evils of the continued economic oppression of francophone West African countries by France and the weaknesses in the foundations of the OAU (now the AU) when the ‘founding fathers’ could not agree on the right road for Afrika to take that would lead her to true liberty. Countries instead chose the road of Capitalism and self-interest which has led us here! To this place of continued weakness and compromise, where our own people would rather dump the continent of Afrika in pursuit of a pipedream in America that sees many of them turn into slaves to a system, working multiple jobs just to scrape by, yet unwilling to come back home to build. Because they feel there’s nothing here worth building.
Capitalism is controlled by a few people who want to ensure that the rich-poor gap between nations and individuals remains in place. A rigged version of competition is its hallmark and if you don’t measure up to its ever changing made-up rules of engagement, you fall out of the game and become the poor. Yet your body is strong, your mind sound and your spirit is willing. But Capitalism won’t agree with you because you didn’t fit into the GDP metrics that classify performance and failure. Who said that’s the only way? Bhutan rejected GDP as a sole measure of progress in 1971, choosing GNH or Gross National Happiness as a preferred measure. Bhutan chose to look at the well-being of its people spiritually, physically, socially, environmentally and to consider the well-being of the natural environment as their priorities and measures of progress and growth. So it is possible to use a model that nobody else uses. Why not create our own?
Look, Afrika, we are not the west, neither are we the east, we are Afrika. Uniquely blessed. Let’s dump this brain drain causing, economy pressurizing, low income individual bullying system in favor of something that is actually grown in and for Afrika. Specific to our culture and values and strengths.
How would we go about it?
Considering that at the end of the day, clean food, water, air, shelter, sanitization and practical clothing are the most important things that we need, let’s focus on building that in Afrika. Where will we get the money? Trade in forex and stock markets globally. We can use the financial crisis to our advantage as a nation to gain resources from other countries and let them work for us for a change. The point will be to eventually get to a place where money is redundant because all our real needs are catered for. What will we do with our time? We will heal, restore and rebuild Afrika by:
1. Cleaning our environment completely of plastics and toxic chemicals – including fertilizers and pesticides and medication that destroy the body such as vaccines and others.
2. Gradually stopping importation of food into Afrika and requiring all restaurants if they want to do business in Afrika to prepare food that truly nourishes. Plant food and herbs that are nutritious and medicinal, raise livestock that are healthy, without the use of drugs and feed our people well to strengthen them physically.
3. Giving every single Afrikan a piece of land. Some may want to farm, others may want to keep livestock, others may want to work together to create communities with buildings and sanitation and farming that respects the environment. In this our continent, let no man, woman or child be without an inheritance in their own land.
4. Producing clothing (including shoes) made from locally available materials. We can grow hemp to make paper, fabric and medicine. It grows fast and is extremely versatile. It has even been used to create a truly biodegradable plastic and material for building vehicles. It is possible.
5. Create local industries that produce equipment, vehicles and other items that we need from materials that are found within the continent.
6. Exchange products, services, know-how, seeds, seedlings amongst Afrikan countries to build each other up.
7. Thank the world for all its kind contributions and donations in the form of loans and tell them that all their debts from slavery and colonialism are now paid. Tell them we won’t pay them a dime more but if they want to trade with us or visit us, they do so on our terms. I believe this is possible. I believe that we can make tremendous strides in shifting our culture in the next 10 years and really rock the world’s boat by showing them what an Afrikan culture really is about: community, well-being, love, compassion, sharing, health, family, brotherhood, building people up, not participating in a rat race. We are not rats.
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Chioma Phillips is the Editor of Msingi Afrika Magazine and the host of Msingi Afrika Television. Her hope is to see the Truth shared, with all who will listen, for the transformation of the people and the continent of Afrika - and the world. She believes passionately in the critical role that Afrika and Afrikans have to play on earth right now and hopes to ignite the spark that will cause them to see and believe who they are, so that they can live out their Truest lives for the remainder of their days.