|Scholars’ seminar on the global financial crisis & Africa underway in Accra|
|Written by Kwesi W. Obeng|
|Tuesday, 22 March 2011 10:24|
A three-day international seminar on the theme “The Global Crisis and Africa: Commodity Dependence and Structural Transformation” is underway in Accra, Ghana’s capital. Forty scholars from Africa and other parts of the world are participating in the meeting.
The ongoing seminar is a follow up to the African Activists School held in August 2010 and also organised by Third World Network Africa (TWN-Af.
Africa’s response to the crisis has been to apply more of the same discredited neo-liberal policies that were responsible for triggering and transmitting the crisis in the first place. In effect these African countries stand the high of risk perpetuating their vulnerability to similar crisis. Indeed, African and external policy responses to and nature of discussion of the crisis reflects material and social concerns of the class-and-gender configuration of the ruling elite.
Setting out the context and key issues for the meeting, Tetteh Hormeku, head of programmes at TWN-Africa said the influence and impacts of the crisis in Africa is shaped largely by the nature of the continent’s systemic integration into the global economy as primary commodity export dependent economies – constructed under colonialism and ever since perpetuated in different forms.
In addition to the reduction in earnings from export of primary commodities are the speculative activities of hedge funds and other financial market actors. The role of speculators goes beyond the price of commodities. Hedge Funds have for instance started to influence investment decisions in commodities because they’re beginning to acquire shares of mining companies. In Africa for instance hedge funds have moved quickly to acquire huge tracts of arable land but have not plans for agriculture.
Speaking on “Regional Dimensions of Global Crisis and Africa’s Responses”, Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi said major IFIs including the IMF and World Bank claimed at the start of the crisis that macroeconomic fundamentals of African economies were sound and therefore were immune to the impacts of the phenomenon.
The World Bank even argued that this was the time for African countries to reap the full benefit of their structural adjustment. This has proven to be false as even best pupils of the SAPs have suffered some of the worst impacts of the crisis in Africa.
In a certain sense, Olukoshi said, Africa has been in permanent crisis” which perhaps may get worse because of the incoherent policy responses and continuous redistribution and allocation of resources in away from productive sectors of Africa.
Currently, he noted, the global financial crisis has been complicated by the climate crisis. He also condemned intrusive role ole of the European Union in defining and shaping the African Union’s policy choices.
According to UNCTAD’s Anida Yupari Aguado big emerging countries are reshaping the international political economic terrain. Large Asian drivers, notably China and India have made sustained and significant contribution to global output, averaging 35 per cent since 2001. The impact of these economies on primary commodity markets and prices has been significant.
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of platinum and Botswana the leading producer of diamond and China although is the world’s largest producer of aluminium and gold is also the number one consumer of several metals.
Aguado said competition for natural resources especially “green minor metals” is growing. These minor metals are by-products of base metals such as copper and zinc and are critical to the emerging clean energy and the low carbon economy.
Referring to the European Union’s Raw Materials Initiative in which the EU outlines plans to secure access to these metals for European companies, Aguado pointed out that trading practices and rules governing the regular trading flows of these strategic metals are set to change drastically in the coming years.
Other presentations on DAY ONE include “Financialisation, Global Capital Flows & Production in Africa” by Prof. Peter Lawrence of University of Keele and “International Financial Architecture & Africa” by Martin Khor of South Centre.
DAY TWO will address the broad theme Challenges of Transforming Africa’s Economic Structures. Presentations to be delivered on DAY TWO are “Lessons from the Global South & Strategies for Africa’s Transformation” by Martin Khor of South Centre; “Land Grab, Financialisation & Threats to Productive Investment” by Benjamin Luig of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation; “Minerals & Development: Beyond the Enclave” by Yao Graham of TWN-Africa and “Key Issues for Industrialisation in a ‘Post-SAPs’ Era” by Prof. Peter Lawrence of of University of Keele.
The conference, hosted by Third World Network-Africa, seeks to contribute to the development of a critical narrative of the crisis and Africa as well as develop outlines of alternatives in response to crisis and neo-liberal hegemonic policies.
The seminar is also expected to generate a research agenda for renewed intellectual and policy output on challenges and strategies for structural transformation of African productive capacities, structures and economies.
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