The Shackled Continent: Africa’s past and present and future (2004)
By Robert Guest
ISBN 14050 3388 6
JUST after apartheid, a white officer in the army confessed that he had been part of the team responsible for biological warfare.
He said the white regime had for a long time been looking into creating a virus or pathogen that would systematically destroy the black races and ensure white domination in Africa.
He did not say further whether they did find the killer disease, but from the HIV statistics we assume they did.
Robert Guest’s book, The Shackled Continent, tries to explain why Africa is ravaged by wars, AIDS and poverty.
And it falls short.
The book is mostly outdated, myopic, conceited, over simplified and full of dramatic scenes that border on exaggeration.
Guest’s work is a manifestation of a typical Western educated thinker who cannot see past his own comfort and search for the truth.
They believe in their governments and media so much that it becomes a religion that everything is in black and white, right and wrong.
For example, he is naïve to think that Africans are not eager to move forward.
“The technology that underpins prosperity already exists and much of it is free,” the Oxford educated reporter arrogantly writes.
“Want to know how to build a car a microchip or a factory for antibiotics?
“Walk into a library or browse through old patent applications.”
This is an arrogant and idiotic assumption by Guest that no one has ever thought of developing software or a car in Africa.
While our local so-called ‘independent’ media was yawning and complaining that President Mugabe in his election address was giving history lessons in Gwanda, they missed the point why he highlighted Africa specifically why Zimbabwe has not produced a car.
According to the President they have been trying for years to get the patent to create the Mazda 323 since the 80s and perhaps develop it further for decades, but the Japanese authorities have refused.
Instead they send the parts to different assembling plants like in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Taiwan, but never the technology as this would increase competition.
This is also the reason why when Japan was hit by a Tsunami and could not export parts for three months the local plants were affected.
Capitalistic multinationals with the support of Western governments have been using whatever means necessary to persuade Africans to liberalise their markets.
The untold truth is that, for example in Zimbabwe, we were self sufficient and could produce every product from snacks, drinks and even tinned foods.
As a country we could export food regionally and dominated some markets to the displeasure of the West.
An uninformed Guest writes, “Africa by contrast, hardly produces anything that the rest of the world wants to buy.”
After multinationals realised that they needed markets to sell their wares to especially the Third World, they sent the Breton Woods institution the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to do their dirty work.
In Zimbabwe, it was the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), a policy which is similar to many introduced in African countries like Mozambique, Tanzania and Ivory Coast, among others.
For the broad masses in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the former USSR, the results of IMF-World Bank policies have been disastrous.
Their evil policies guarantee that locally made products will have to compete with well established products and often times it is the local ones that suffer.
After all, says Guest “…hardly anyone buys African software or insurance.”
Instead, the writer tells the African reader that they should not blame anyone for their failures as it is ‘their tendency to believe that Africa’s problems are someone else’s fault’.
I suppose to Guest it is not anyone’s fault that the American government has been providing arms to rebel groups throughout the continent in the guise of human rights since the Cold War.
Again it is Africa’s fault former colonial governments like South Africa would fund chaos in Mozambique by providing arms and ammunition to a man called Alfonso Dhlakama.
It raises another ugly assumption by the writer that such institutions give monies to Africa out of the goodness of their Christian heart.
“They (African leaders) disguise the fact that they were not producing much by borrowing huge sums of money from foolish Western banks and governments,” the writer says.
The key word to note is ‘foolish’, the author assumes that Western banks like the IMF truly want to end poverty as the banner on their website reads.
In country after country the IMF, as the representative of the most powerful banks and financial institutions, intervenes to impose ‘structural reforms’, privatisation, reduction of government spending and elimination of barriers to foreign ownership aimed at ensuring the domination of global financial markets.
“If Africa were better governed, it would be richer,” parrots the author citing that Mugabe and Muammar Gaddafi, have done more harm than what the colonialists did.
Guest says Zambia is like every other African country and he blames leaders that want to nationalise their resources and not allow private companies to create wealth on behalf of the citizens.
For those that do not know, Zambia produced about 700 000 metric tonnes of copper in 2010, generating roughly US$6 billion in sales.
However, almost two thirds of Zambia’s people live below the poverty datum line.
Glencore, the company mining the copper in Zambia, inflated costs. This combined with fraudulent undervaluing of the copper exports receipts enabled the company to report overall losses, and therefore pay little or no corporate taxes in Zambia.
An audit group Action Aid estimated that this tax dodge could have cost Zambia up to £76 million in one year alone more than Zambia receives in UK aid each year.
“I have never seen a more poignant illustration of why the world’s poor need capitalism,” the self righteous capitalist writes of Zambia.
Glencore is just a fraction of multinationals that strip Africa of her coco, diamonds, wood, coal, oil and many other resources.
Guest’s line of thought goes in tandem with his job as the business editor of the African edition of The Economist.
The Economist has offices in London and Johannesburg.
During apartheid they defended the apartheid regime because they claimed to be anti-communist and opposed sanctions against the racist regime.
The United Nations Development Programme defines governance as the ‘competent management of a country’s resources and affairs in a manner that is open, transparent, accountable, equitable and responsive to people’s needs’.
In the case of Zimbabwe, which is the richest country in mineral resources per capita, what better way to utilise the resources than to indigenise and have the resources serve the people.