Accra, Ghana – In 1965 Kwame Nkrumah described the paradox of neocolonialism in Africa, in which ‘the ground continues'[s] not only to enrich Africans predominantly, but also groups and individuals working to impoverish Africa. He captured what remains an essential feature of Africa’s political economy.
In today’s period enforced by neoliberalism, many African states remain dependent on the export of primary commodities to enrich the global North, with their domestic policies limited by unequal aid, trade and investment regimes, and what they are now, to almost four decades of structural adjustment, an almost permanent state of sobriety.
Despite the apparent failures, neoliberalism dominates continental policy-making, reinforced by an ideological onslaught and a conditional regime that has stifled any room for proposing and pursuing alternatives. African governments challenged the neocolonial exploitation of the continent in the immediate post-independence period.
Regardless of their ideological tendencies, governments saw the most important task of their time as securing their political and economic agency by breaking out of their subordinate place in the global economic order and proposing a new one. In contrast to the contemporary externalization of policy, they responded creatively to the material interests of the majority of ordinary people.
The state-sponsored and / or established industries; provides universal education to apply skills needed to transform the economy; built social infrastructure to facilitate reproductive labor; switched off from colonial currencies; resources made available to domestic producers and women through central bank development policies; worked to diversify the sources of income; and built up regional solidarity.
The post-independence project was undermined and derailed by the active efforts of Northern governments, including their former colonizers. They disrupted African governments through assassination attempts and coups, and opportunistically exploited the 1980s commodity disaster that devastated African economies, forcing them to accept World Bank / International Monetary Fund (WB / IMF) loans. subject to liberalization, austerity and privatization.
Four decades later, the ideological domination of neoliberalism is profound. Spaces of progressive thinking and learning are fragmented, knowledge production is monopolized by the free market logic and tendencies misread of the post-independence period as ideological, statistical and ineffective, and this facilitates the feeling best summed up by the Thatcherites. ruling that “there is no alternative.”
Review of post-independence policy
Three widespread misrepresentations of the post-independence period were used in the 1980s to promote structural adjustment programs and support neoliberal hegemony in Africa.
First, the WB / IMF and Northern governments regard post-independence leaders as excessively ideological in order to discredit the whole experience. In reality, however, there was an ideological ferment, but the variety of policies adopted by African governments to affirm economic sovereignty was similar in the ideological spectrum.
Capitalist-oriented Kenya, socialist humanist Zambia, scientific socialist Ghana, Negritudist Senegal and Houphouet-Boigny’s Ivory Coast (then the Ivory Coast) played a central role for the state in the post-colonial social and economic transformation, often driven by the collective ethos to meet the needs of society in the absence of any significant local private capitalist class and the levels of investment needed for transformation.
This is often translated into the creation of state-owned enterprises and large investment in human capital; far-reaching fiscal and monetary policy; and a uniform (if ultimately contradictory) commitment to import substitution industrialization.
The false homogenization of the development project towards independence as a failure of ideology, enabled neoliberalism to be an ‘objective’ and ‘rational’ means for this period, rather than an ideology itself, which can probably be disputed .
Second, the strong role of the state in post-independence development policy is blamed for Africa’s development problems and is used to justify the installation of the market as the solution, which laid the foundation for large-scale privatization and deregulation. In reality, however, all economies after independence were largely market-oriented, with key sectors dominated by foreign capital serving as a continuation of colonial patterns.
However, post-independence governments decided to regulate foreign capital by nationalizing, for example, strategic industries and capital controls. Eventually, the failure to curb the dominance of foreign capital, the continued dependence on the export of primary commodities, and the disorder of the global economic system worked to undermine the development project toward independence.
This reality has been embezzled as a scapegoat of state interference, which justifies the further encroachment on foreign capital and the continued integration into an unequal global economic order. Thandika Mkandawire and Charles Soludo explained the hypocrisy of this narrative and noted that the post-independence project was not globally outside the dominant policy direction.
After the Depression, Europe was rebuilt by massive state-driven intervention, and the US-led Marshall Plan was far from a market-driven exercise. As Ha-Joon Chang noted, the delegation of the state as a development actor in Africa denies the policy instruments that the North uses to develop.
Finally, the myth of weak and inefficient institutions in the post-independence period supported efforts to dissolve the state and its role in the economy and social provision.
It gives a misrepresentation of a uniquely consistent policy period on the continent, in which there were stable tariff policies and taxes, and public development plans and budgets. Mkandawire and Soludo suggest that neoliberal actors such as the World Cup / IMF simply could not understand the multiple roles of institutions in the post-independence period: rural post offices were also savings banks and meeting places for the community, the Cocoa Marketing Board in Ghana also money raised. to finance education.
As such, when they were dismantled during structural adjustment and replaced with standardized, monotonous institutions, it tore apart the social structure that was an integral part of the agenda after independence. After the state-run Cocoa Marketing Board was dismantled, for example, universities had to raise funds, and the donors reformed and de-politicized the curriculum over time.
The consequent sense of disruption, alienation and commodification has undermined the profound efforts of post-independence governments to promote socio-economic inclusion.
The post-independence period had a variety of constraints, critically related to the failure to adequately address gender imbalances, enable independent labor and peasant movements, or build highly decentralized local government systems.
Compared to the neoliberal era, however, there was inspiring clarity around the goal of structural transformation and a myriad of policy efforts aimed at transforming the neocolonial patterns that still grip the continent.
The questions posed by governments after independence, to which policies were formulated as answers, were almost ignored by neoliberalism. It is therefore of value to Africans to go beyond the sustained narratives that help reinforce neoliberalism and reaffirm the experiences of Africa in this period as an anchor for development alternatives.
Published from Africa is a country under a Creative Commons license. This article is from Post-Colonialisms Today, a research and advocacy project of activist intellectuals on the continent that recovers progressive thinking and policies of early African independence to address today’s development challenges. Register here for PCT updates.