WASHINGTON. Long Terms US strategic interests are served by free markets, liberty, and free trade. Relating to this matter, on November 14, 2018, Ivanka Trump tweeted in celebration of the passage of the bipartisan BUILD (Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development) Act.
Celebrating the passage of the bipartisan #BUILDAct – transformative leg that will ensure US foreign assistance is effective in supporting developing countries on their journey to self-reliance.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) November 14, 2018
Her tweet read as follows.
“Celebrating the passage of the bipartisan #BUILDAct – the transformative leg that will ensure US foreign assistance is effective in supporting developing countries on their journey to self-reliance. Thank you @SenBobCorker @ChrisCoons @RepTedYoho @RepEdRoyce for getting this done!”
Is the BUILD Act just the same old, same old?
However, there is some question as to whether America’s BUILD Act can actually help Africa and Africans themselves. The political and economic situation on the African continent is, in many ways, as bad as ever. The very thought of self-reliance is often alien to the thinking of many African politicians and their constituents alike.
Countering Chinese influence around the world.
A significant, potential new colonizer could be making it worse. Recently, horrifying stories are coming out of Africa that concern Chinese behavior in African countries. Reports accuse the Chinese of walking all over the continent like new imperialists. Worse, some African governments are actually treating them that way by deferring to the Chinese actions and attitudes. In the meantime, countries in debt to China are losing state assets, just like the old colonial days. And it is likely what a rapidly growing, resource-hungry, imperialistic China intends.
Speaking of those old colonial days, the BBC recently ran an editorial entitled “Can ‘voluntary colonialism’ stop migration from Africa to Europe?” Will the mass out-migration of Africans to the European continent ultimately lead to the re-colonization of Africa? Dysfunctional African governments may inadvertently be allowing this to transpire. A reimposition of colonialism in a more sophisticated form could be the final result.
The suspicious case of Patrice Lumumba
For years African skeptics have looked with suspicion on Western political actions on the continent, especially since the execution of Congolese politician and independence leader Patrice Émery Lumumba. Lumumba served as the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo from June until September 1960. However, his term came to an abrupt end due to a military coup supported by Western governments. He was later assassinated under questionable circumstances. The New York Times later charged that this was a CIA-financed assassination.
More recent information on Lumumba’s assassination / execution is more ambiguous when it comes to assigning blame. Sources cite the direct involvement in Lumumba’s execution by the UK and Belgium. The latter nation, of course, was the Congo’s former, brutal colonial master. Lumumba’s demise, in fact, was carried out “by a firing squad led by Belgian Captain Julien Gat; another Belgian, Police Commissioner Verscheure, had overall command of the execution site.”
It is believed by many Africans that the Lumumba execution was a ploy to create as much chaos as possible in the Congo. The hoped-for result, the theory goes, would be that African citizens of the Congo would beg Western powers to recolonize their country. Theoretically, the people’s representatives in the future would be wise and prudent – and vetted by political insiders in the key Western capitals of London, Paris and Washington.
Chaos after the Lumumba assassination
The resulting African situation since Lumumba’s assassination has been decades of chaos, a persistent lack of confidence in government and leadership, and a disjointed, dysfuctional continent. The African situation has deteriorated so badly that the current occupant of the White House, President Donald Trump, rightfully calls Africa a shithole.
The defenders of the legion of kleptocrats currently running the majority of African nations reassure themselves that all this is fine. Just as long as they are okay, Africa is doing great. The images of Africa and African nations they show the world are filled with luxury homes including swimming pools and other Western-style amenities customarily favored by the rich. They claim that alarming but objective statistics are lying when they report poverty and oppression in African nations, or when they claim that supposedly wealthy Nigeria is actually the poverty capital of the world.
Today, Africa’s outstanding problems still involve political corruption on a grand scale, worsened by a lack of social cohesion. All this still springs from the average African’s persistent, post-colonial self-doubt.
These negative feelings and actions are often reinforced by people in a position of some authority. Some priests claim slavery was a blessing as people could have had it worse in deepest darkest Africa had colonial powers not intervened.
For example, Helen Zille a prominent opposition leader in South Africa in March 2017 tweeted:
“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water, etc.”
It is notable that a number of the individuals making such claims have no clear understanding of trade, free or otherwise. That is because the relationship between the West and Africa has never actually been about trade. Instead, it is more about what goods or resources the West can get from Africa as cheaply as possible. The focus has long been on exploitation as opposed to trade.
The looting of Africa’s mineral assets
Western governments have a long tradition of looting gold, diamonds, cobalt and other critical minerals from Africa. The Chinese are only the latest big power to line up African assets in order to make off with their share.
Instead of letting each country’s assets leave cheaply, however, numerous African governments could have traded them to other nations in exchange for vital infrastructure, including railways and roads. Indeed, such a regime is what China claims to want today.
But, instead of allowing Western nations – and China – to steal their natural assets, vital infrastructure needs like infrastructure, available piped-in water, and better and more efficient transportation are all things Africa should have been negotiating for all along, particularly instead of allowing countries like China to force their governments to become indebted and losing local control.
African ‘haves’ and “have-nots”
As time progresses, any “new” evidence in economics tends to return to the same point: free people will always do wondrous things. Some 2,500 years ago, renowned Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu already understood this time-honored principle.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
But in the many decades following Africa’s liberation from colonial rule, Africa continues in its failure to recognize this crucial fact. Regarding this attitude, Lao Tzu has a saying for that too.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
As proof of this maxim’s eternal timeliness, one needs only to observe the ongoing tragedy in Venezuela, a once-thriving society driven by a robust and entrepreneurial middle and merchant class. Still overflowing with rich resources, including oceans of crude oil, Venezuela today is a sinkhole pretending to be a New Utopia. Middle- and lower-class jobs have vanished almost entirely, and along with them, all hope.
Ruling class elites vs. everyone else
Save for its ruling socialist “elites,” the entire country is impoverished, starving and lacking in even basic medical care. But the Venezuelan government refuses to change direction. As thousands of starving Venezuelan citizens attempt to escape their country at all costs, Venezuela is truly ending up where it is heading.
Similar to Venezuela’s blindly ideological socialists, the Africans featured in reports — Africans enjoying large houses and swimming pools — do not care whether President Trump or any Western leader cares about those millions of Africans without a swimming pool. Africa and its fractured nation-states can never amount anything if the continent continues to ignore the growing number of hopeless have-nots being ignored by their politicians and media alike. Like Venezuela, this is an invitation for violence and disaster to come.
Every relationship leads to a loss of freedom.
It is a universal law that affects all things in existence from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. Economics is nothing but a series of changing relationships. The key economic question is how best do we maximize the benefits while minimizing the costs of these complicatedrelationships?
Answering that question requires understanding that economics is all about an exchange of information. Individuals wish to be part of a society where all can contribute to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, African governments consistently ask citizens to endorse solutions involving ill-defined international “partnerships.” But in these “partnerships,” Africans seem always to play a subservient role to their Western or Chinese partners. This is not likely to ensure a just society for Africans.
A just society holds all citizens equal before the law. Unfortunately, African laws on the books nearly always favor of elitists and kleptocrats. Laws instead should treat villagers equally with industrialists and the head of state. The persistent, ongoing failure to understand this mocks the struggle against colonialism. It also mocks the fact that Africans want to progress in this century, not regress back into the past.
Government of, by and for kleptomaniacs needs to go
An individual needs something to trade with in order to participate in the market. No government can be allowed to block any individual from participating in a market s long as there is another individual with whom he can trade. What right does any individual have to be afforded more protection than another citizen in the market? That has been Africa’s problem all along.
To succeed in the 21st century, African nations do not need to regress “back to a future” of voluntary colonialism. Africa needs to de-colonize both mentally and in fact. The continent and its countries must finally throw off the colonial mentality that holds Africans possess no value. Today’s lingering colonial mental hangover is such that many Africans still believe some Westerner or Chinese dictator will free them. Carefully examining BUILD Act in this context may be Africa’s latest challenge. Will it help Africa break free of its colonial mentality in philosophy and fact? Or will it lead to reinforce Africa’s painfully ongoing and unnecessary subservience to outside forces?
Will the BUILD Act help African evolve? Or regress?
In most African nations today, legislators must rewrite or emend existing laws in a way that enables citizens to participate in Government. Citizens must now permit an elite government to dictate to them. The current generation of kleptomaniacs run the show in an unproductive way. They routinely endow Westerners and Chinese elites with vast privileges. Only then can African citizens fight for what little of the economic pie remains. Major changes in both the law and the African mindset can make Africans count in the economic sphere.
Africa continues to suffer from an inferiority complex, a lack of confidence. Otherwise, Africans would routinely trust other Africans. Real economic and personal freedom could then take hold. To be truly free means being able to trust the society in which you live. Such trust must include your nation, your leaders, your community — and yourself.
A US Congressional summary notes that the BUILD Act sets up a virtual corporation that promises to help needy nations. But the Act appears to prohibit funding terrorists AND government kleptocrats alike.
“The corporation shall not provide assistance to: (1) a country whose government has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, or (2) a private sector entity that is engaged in monopolistic practices.”
Carefully examining BUILD Act in this context may be the latest challenge for African nations. Will BUILD help Africa break free of its colonial mentality in philosophy and fact? Or might the Act reinforce Africa’s painfully ongoing and unnecessary subservience to outside forces?
— Headline image. Ivanka Trump attending BUILD Act ceremony. White House photo, public domain.