rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The West has been ripping off Africa for 700 years. Not the other way around

According to The New York Times, Donald Trump's transition team wanted to know: "Why should we spend funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?" Curiously enough, most Americans probably would have agreed with Mr. Trump that this was a real question. But they all share an entirely false premise.

America and the rest of the rich world have actually been ripping off Africa for the past 700 years, ever since the Portuguese began the slave trade, all the while insisting that Africa has been the beneficiary of this relentless exploitation. It's been one of the great hoaxes of the past millennium.

Slavery and the slave trade, upon which Western Europe and the United States developed their economic superiority, were said to be positive for Africans, whose innate inferiority meant they had no capacity to run their own lives.

Colonialism, in turn, was the West's ostensibly philanthropic attempt to gift Africa with "Christianity, Civilization and Commerce," in return for making possible Europe's assorted empires.

Neocolonialsm, which has operated for the past 65 years since the West first "gave" their African colonies freedom, is the stage we have all lived through. During this period, according to Western mythology, Africa has been the problem to which the generosity of the rich world is the solution. You know – a goat at Christmas, the "adoption" of an unknown child, meagre foreign aid and neoliberal economic policies.

In reality, Africa is far more generous to the West than we are to it. That was evident from the first. But beginning in 1973, with the publication of the ground-breaking book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, by Guyanese academic-activist Walter Rodney, the European fairy tale was definitively exploded. The title said it all: Africa's multiple woes were a function of deliberate policies of exploitation by Europe's colonial regimes.

Since then, despite mounting evidence, mass ignorance in the West, cultivated by both elites and aid agencies, remained dominant. Yet excellent research by sophisticated NGOs have made indisputably clear the manifold ways in which foreign interests consistently ripped off African countries, not least through tax evasion and the investment privileges gained by Western corporate interests.

I myself jumped into this attempt to demystify Africa-West relations with a book called The Betrayal of Africa. The betrayers were Western governments and corporate interests, often in collusion with African elites. The betrayed were innocents in the West and of course the African people.

More exposés pour forth, the latest, probably most comprehensive one, just this December. The U.S.-based Global Financial Integrity examined all of the financial resources that get transferred between rich countries and poor ones each year, including aid, foreign investment and trade flows, as well as debt cancellation, workers' remittances and unrecorded capital flight.

The conclusion was categorical: The flow of money from rich countries to poor countries, including most of Africa, pales in comparison to the flow that runs in the other direction.

In 2012, the last year of recorded data, poor countries received a total of $1.3-trillion (U.S.), including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. But that same year some $3.3-trillion flowed out of them. In other words, developing countries sent $2-trillion more to the rest of the world than they received. Since 1980, these net outflows add up to a staggering total of $16.3 trillion. That's how much money has been bled out of the global south, including Africa, over the past few decades.

And yes, it's trillions.

Add in the massive corruption, enabled by Western interests, plus the violent coups and conflicts that Western interests facilitated, and there's only one conclusion: Rich countries aren't developing poor countries; poor countries are developing rich ones.

Canada is a pretty good example. On the one hand, our governments sends them paltry amounts of foreign aid. On the other, to take only one example, Canadian investment in African mining ventures, many of them deeply destructive to locals, are often actively promoted by Canadian politicians and bureaucrats.

The Trudeau government is looking for a new Africa strategy. Surely telling the truth about who is ripping off whom would be a very constructive way to begin. Then the appropriate policies could, at long last, follow. Or is the truth now too much for Canada, too?

Image: PMO/Adam Scotti

Thank you for reading this story...

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all. But media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.

If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.

We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing in 2017.

Make a donation.Become a monthly supporter.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.