Harnessing Africa: Is Neoliberalism working for Africa?
The global news of black African youths in their prime being traded in an open slave in Libya was a harsh reality. The resurgence of slave markets is probably another failure of neo-liberalism. Where liberal democracy and liberal rights should be the mainstay of a liberal society we find its proponents subverting liberal democracy by funding military dictatorships.
Modern day slave trade is a moral crisis that reveals the contradiction of lack of liberal rights in a liberal market situation. Human trafficking of disadvantaged women and children alone grosses US$150 billion annually, with sex trade generating US$99 billion, according to a 2014 International Labour Organization figures.
The skeleton of the slavery era spanning over three centuries still dangles in our closets. Despite attempts to whitewash global social inequities arising out of that abuse with offers of ethereal affirmation and liberal rights, limited democracy suffocates any progress.
Slavery is reproduced and packaged in different forms – debt bondage, colonialism, imperialism and arms race – these conditions have transformed Africa into breeding ground for slaves. There are no specific safeguards against the vice under this monster – neoliberalism. Free market philosophy has come with its demand for unregulated labor, and it comes with increasingly precarious and demeaning exploitative jobs.
The costs associated with the hyped development under the so-called free-markets undermine the underprivileged, underdeveloped and under-resourced population setting them up for a tenuous situation for harnessing into slavery. According to Credit Suisse, in 2017, the global richest 1% owns 50.1% of global wealth, signifying a rise from a 42.5% in 2008. Moreover, this wealth distribution and location demonstrate how the global south is peripheral – dispossessed.
In the meantime, the states are diminishing at an alarming rate, retaining a thin political authority over the liberal markets. Most of these states are captives of, and operating entirely on institutional economic framework prescribed by IMF/WB. One of their star performers (victims) – Uganda – for instance, mediates slavery of its own people through state registered agencies that export under-developed human resources for cheap house-help labour to Asia and Caribbean.
The African economies seem to work only for the few transnational corporations and its turncoats – the corrupted state agents who conspire to exploit and plunder the continent.
More Africans have lost customary property – land. Many now strive to trade their labor cheaply to foreign investors, without union privileges. The World Migration Report 2015 establishes that Africa has the highest rural to urban migration where migrants poverty, discrimination, crowding, diseases, and exclusion, and so forth, form inelastic urban facilities and services.
How else could the proponents of neoliberal policies in Africa explain the high migration rates – the mass pre-industrial migration from rural to urban centres? Or, the high unemployment rates, alcohol/drug abuse, and suicide among Africa’s youthful population? Are these also indicators of economic development, or under development?
The resurgence of slave markets may be a strong indicator of the chaotic and devastating nature of neoliberal ideology that undermines state authorities in preference for liberal markets.
Hundreds of indigent Africans flee and drown frequently while crossing the oceans to seek for decent jobs in Europe or America. Many are denied work visa on racist and inhuman grounds such as lack of previous record of travel, or inability to demonstrate strong ties to home country to guarantee their returns.
These are ridiculous visa conditions given that the very economic policies are breaking families, forcing people off their land and property, and harnessing their labour for cheap exchange.
Neoliberal policies in Africa needs a comprehensive evaluating urgently. The harsh realities of this economic policy seem to outwear its benefits in Africa after nearly 30 years. Africa is facing severely masked under-development socially, economically and politically. The challenge is that liberal markets without liberal rights and liberal democracy cannot flourish in Africa.