Africa: A Continent Rattled by Coups, Poverty, Inflation, and Debt

Inflation, Poverty and Debt

Despite the abundance of human and natural resources in Africa, millions of people across the continent live in abject poverty. The ruling classes in different African countries act as puppets for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, helping capitalist extract wealth from the environment and the workforce. Those who attempt to challenge the system are summarily executed by the imperialist forces that have dominated Africa, from Belgium to France and from the US to Britain.

Africa, a continent with great cultural, ecological, and economic diversity, remains underdeveloped as a result of capitalism and imperialism. As it stands, many African countries are trapped in a cycle of borrowing from one foreign power to another. Recently, due to political balancing, many of them have turned to China for loans.

Moreover, most African countries suffer from lack of basic infrastructure, lack of access to food, clean water and energy and mass levels of poverty. Despite borrowing massive amounts of money for infrastructure and social programs, the money is often squandered by political officeholders and embezzled through dubious contracts. Corruption is a major factor present across Africa. The political crisis of capitalism in Africa has resulted in civil wars, coups, xenophobic attacks, religious crises, kidnappings, terrorism, and the rigging of elections by various sections of the ruling classes.

It is important to stress that despite the abundant resources in many African countries, all countries are faced with continuous economic woes, such as hyperinflation, debt crises, etc. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has witnessed a civil war between 1967-1970 and is presently grappling with loans and political crises, not to mention extreme poverty. Pre and post-election crises are commonplace and elections are often marred by violence. Many bourgeois politicians have empowered their supporters to rig elections and incite violence in order to seize power and gain access to immense public wealth.

Nigeria is not alone in this. On 14th January, 2021, Ugandans went for an election that was massively rigged by the ruling Museveni government, which has been in power for about four decades. The opposition leader, Bob Wine, and his family members were placed under house arrest and denied access to food for days. As we write this, thousands of opposition members are languishing in prisons and torture chambers on the orders of the ruling party. The country’s debts are enormous, but the government has shown little interest in ending poverty and inequality. Furthermore, Uganda is known for imposing the death penalty for homosexuality. Many African countries deliberately oppose LGBT rights, citing cultural differences, but they conveniently forget that homosexuality has existed in Africa as long as mankind has. Consequently, individuals are beaten, humiliated, or arrested  because of their sexual orientation.

The serious threat of climate change to Africa’s economic, social, and environmental development is not adequately addressed. There is strong evidence that warming in Africa has significantly increased over the past few decades, leading to negative effects on agriculture, health, livelihoods, and food security. However, African leaders pay little attention to this pressing issue and instead focus on seeking loans while corruption remains rampant.

Africa at a Glance

A glance at some African countries reveals how neoliberalism and capitalism have wreaked havoc due to the absence of working-class resistance. In the absence of a united front to fight back against anti-worker attacks, coups are being carried out in many African countries, putting the lives of millions in danger.

Just recently, two factions of warlords in Sudan started a military confrontation that seems to have no end in sight, resulting in millions being displaced. This country, known for its spirit of resistance, now faces extreme poverty as a result of decades of dictatorship under the disgraced Omar regime. The conflict was fueled by the conflicting interests of different imperialist camps in the country. Imperialism has played a significant role in throwing the country back into war.

When elections are conducted in Africa, it often becomes a do-or-die situation. In April, the opposition leader in Kenya called on his supporters to march for economic reform and against the anti-poor policies of the new administration. However, they were violently attacked, with police arresting and killing people in the streets. The opposition lacks viable solutions to the crisis in Kenya, as they often share the same capitalist policies. Both sides are influenced by one imperialist camp or another.

Senegal witnessed violent mass protests in early June after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison. The court found him guilty of “corrupting youth” due to a mass protest he called for last year, although he was cleared of other charges, including rape. This may jeopardize his chances of running in next year’s presidential race. Clashes between his supporters and security forces resulted in the deaths of nine people, including a 26-year-old student named Elhaji Cisse. Despite being considered one of Africa’s model democracies by some bourgeois commentators, Senegal is controlled by a puppet regime of the French government. The economy of Senegal relies heavily on mining, construction, tourism, fishing, and agriculture. However, despite abundant natural resources such as iron, zircon, gas, gold, phosphate, and recent oil discoveries, millions of workers in these sectors live in poverty.

Ghana is facing a predictable debt crisis. It defaulted on its external debts in December 2022, following economic restructuring as directed by the IMF. This was part of the conditions for a $3 billion IMF loan. Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, who had initially vowed to keep the IMF at arm’s length, eventually went back on his word. This marks the 18th time Ghana has sought assistance from the IMF, highlighting the failure of capitalism in a country once touted as Africa’s shining star by the World Bank.

Ghana’s debt crisis is just one among the many crises facing the country. Corruption is rampant among the top echelons of the ruling class, exacerbating economic woes. Economic indicators paint a grim picture, with inflation reaching a record 54.1 percent in December 2022, the highest in 22 years. Ghana was ranked as the country with sub-Saharan Africa’s highest food prices according to the World Bank’s 2022 Africa Pulse Report. Food prices increased by 122 percent since January 2022. Fuel prices also skyrocketed by over 140 percent in 2022. Ghana’s cedi lost nearly 52 percent of its value in 2022, ranking as the worst-performing currency among 148 currencies worldwide. Even before the impact of the IMF deal, the World Bank estimated that over 23 percent of Ghanaians live in poverty.

Zambia defaulted in 2021. Since then painful austerity measures have been implemented. However, the president Hakainde Hichilema, who is a puppet and agent of imperialists, recently received a hero’s welcome after securing debt restructuring during his visit to France.

In August 2022, violent protests and riots broke out in Sierra Leone, triggered by the nation’s cost-of-living crisis. A curfew was implemented in the capital city of Freetown, and the protests resulted in the deaths of 31 people, including 25 civilians and six police officers. Recently, Sierra Leone held elections which re-elected Julius Maada with 56.17 percent of the votes, with 2.8 million votes cast, despite reports of intimidation and violent incidents targeting opposition members in some areas. The opposition party, All People’s Congress, has rejected the results, considering them “fake,” “cooked up,” and “a daylight robbery of the will of the people.” Clashes and violence have erupted in several places.

High levels of unemployment, estimated at 25 percent, plague South Africa. Over the past year, the South African economy has faced various disruptions, including acute electricity power challenges, inefficiencies in state-owned enterprises and climate change, among others. These challenges, exacerbated by neoliberalism, have contributed to xenophobic attacks on migrants from other African countries.

World Bank has no Solution

According to The World Bank’s report on Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa experienced a drop in economic growth from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2022, with an expected further dip to 3.1% in 2023. This decline is attributed to global economic sluggishness, lingering inflation, tough financial conditions, and high debt levels. Despite being home to over 1 billion people, half of whom will be under 25 years old by 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa, has not been able to achieve meaningful growth for the people and eradicate poverty. The World Bank report obviously fails to address the role of unending loans and the imposing dictates of institutions like the IMF in contributing to the present crisis in Africa. The report offers only a superficial explanation of the crisis without delving into its underlying causes.

Wagner Group

One new feature of the situation in Africa is the use of private armies and mercenaries, which has resulted in numerous human rights abuses and violations of democratic rights. Recently, the United States imposed sanctions on companies that appear to fund the Wagner Group, a mercenary organization run by Yevgeny Prigozhin with the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin (at least until recently). The Wagner Group has become the face of Russian influence in Africa, with evidence showing their presence in approximately ten African countries. These mercenaries are currently also fighting in support of Russia in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Reports have claimed that Prigozhin controls certain companies such as Midas Resources, which operates mines in the Central African Republic, and Diamville, a gold and diamond purchasing company. Russian flags have become a common sight at rallies and public protests in countries like Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, and Mali, as Russia attempts to assert its influence in various African nations. Reports indicate that Russia is investing heavily in social media influencers in African countries to promote its interests. One prominent influencer, Kemi Seba, a French-Beninese social media figure with over 1 million Facebook followers, was invited to speak at the Moscow Institute in Russia, where he defended Moscow’s actions in the region, particularly those of the Wagner Group mercenaries. Russia and Wagner are exploiting historical ties between some African nations and the Soviet Union while propagating the notion that Russia has no colonial history on the continent. Wagner has been present in the Central African Republic since 2017 and is now also operating in Mali. Over the years, these mercenaries have served as the presidential guard and national security advisors, while their affiliated companies exploit the country’s gold and diamond resources for their own benefit and to finance Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Wagner Group has even taken control of the Central African Republic’s customs system. The presence of Wagner in African countries serves as evidence of the diminishing monopoly of Western influence in Africa. Western criticism of Wagner and Russia does not go down well with the African population. Africans have felt in their flesh the colonial past and present of Western forces and see its propaganda as hypocritical.

Fighting for a Better Future

For many young Africans, leaving their homeland for Europe, Canada, and other developed countries, is an attempt to seek a better life. Thousands embark on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea in hope of reaching Western Europe. The ordinary people of Africa are at the receiving end of the crises caused by their respective ruling classes and their colonial rulers.

It is crucial to raise the banner of an alternative to the barbarism that prevails across the African continent. Walter Rodney’s book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” published in 1972, describes how Africa was deliberately exploited and underdeveloped by European colonial regimes. One of his main arguments throughout the book is that Africa developed Europe at the same rate that Europe underdeveloped Africa.

“The question as to who, and what, is responsible for African underdevelopment can be answered at two levels: First, the answer is that the operation of the imperialist system bears major responsibility for African economic retardation by draining African wealth and by making it impossible to develop more rapidly the resources of the continent. Second, one has to deal with those who manipulate the system and those who are either agents or unwitting accomplices of the said system. The capitalists of Western Europe were the ones who actively extended their exploitation from inside Europe to cover the whole of Africa. In recent times, they were joined, and to some extent replaced, by capitalists from the United States; and for many years now even the workers of those metropolitan countries have benefited from the exploitation and underdevelopment of Africa. None of these remarks are intended to remove the ultimate responsibility for development from the shoulders of Africans. Not only are there African accomplices inside the imperialist system, but every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work for its overthrow.”

It is important to note that capitalism emerged late in Africa. The people of Africa need to continue their struggle for liberation because capitalism can no longer advance humanity and must be overthrown. This reaffirms the relevance of Trotsky’s idea of permanent revolution, which exposes the inability of leaders in the neo-colonial world to develop their countries based on capitalism, even to achieve what bourgeois revolutions have accomplished in advanced economies.

In order to achieve human living conditions for all African workers, there needs to be economic cooperation across African countries. This must be built on a genuine socialist program aimed at the formation of a socialist confederation, in solidarity with the international working class. This, together with embracing the genuine ideas of Marxism as taught by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky, should be the task of political formations claiming to represent workers and the poor masses in Africa.

What is needed is socialist planning that enables the utilization of human and material resources for the development of the continent and the satisfaction of the needs of the vast majority. This is the task for the working-class people. Although there is currently no widespread socialist consciousness, ongoing failures of capitalism in Africa and globally, as well as resistance against capitalist attacks, will eventually lead workers and youth in search of alternatives.

The failure of capitalism is evident in all African countries, apparent even to the blind and audible even to the deaf. From Nigeria to Ghana, from Senegal to South Africa, the story of poverty, unemployment, hunger, injustice, and human rights abuses repeats itself.

Achieving this transformation requires a socialist revolution. Building the forces for such a revolutionary task, not only in Africa but globally is the primary objective of the Revolutionary Socialist Movement and Internationalist Standpoint. We are fighting for a socialist confederation of Africa and a socialist world where the vast natural resources are carefully used to meet the needs of all, rather than the greed of the few.

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