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18th May Paris summit ... Macron's plan to (...) exploit its former colonies (Pr Fadhel KABOUB*)

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The 18th May Paris summit is officially committed to Post-covid19 economic recovery in Africa. But such meetings seem to confirm the reliance of African states on France ?

Absolutely. It is very clear that France continues to subject its former colonies to a relationship of economic dependence via an extractive model that was enshrined during the colonial period and further strengthened in the postcolonial era. The engine of neocolonial extraction has been halted by the COVID19 pandemic, and Mr. Macron wants to make sure that the engine is reignited rather than replaced by a new engine of resilience and economic and monetary sovereignty. African economies are drowning in external debt (debt denominated in foreign currencies like U.S. dollars, euros, british pounds etc.) that has accumulated over the years because of three structural weaknesses: 1/ lack of food security, 2/ lack of energy security, and 3/ heavy reliance on extractive industries and low value-added manufacturing. The combination of these factors produce substantial trade deficits, which weaken African currencies relative to the euro and the U.S. dollar, thus making the imports of basic necessities like food, fuel, medicine, capital equipment more expensive. This leads to persistent inflation, which forces African government to subsidize basic necessities and requires borrowing in foreign currencies in order to stop the depreciation of their currencies. This high level of external debt creates an obsession with economic activities that generate foreign currency reserves such as tourism, exports, and foreign direct investment (FDI). These are the engines that the Paris Summit wants to restart. Tourism requires more food and energy imports. FDI and exports of raw materials and low tech manufacturing exacerbate the vicious cycle of economic dependence that I described above. In other words, this the Macron plan to relaunch the French economy and further exploit its former colonies.


How do you qualify or appreciate French president Emmanuel Macron’s foreign policy towards Africa?

I object to referring to the Macron plan with terms like "help," "solidarity," or "assistance" to Africa. We can use those terms when France starts the true decolonization of Africa and pays for colonial reparations. I would start with debt cancellation, and insist on investing in food security, renewable energy security, and basic health, education, and public infrastructure investments. We can certainly criticize Macron's neocolonial plans, but one has to acknowledge that African leaders are in this position because 1/ they don't realize that the economic model they are using is a neocolonial trap, and 2/ they have no strategic long-term vision for their own economies to develop resilience and economic and monetary sovereignty. If Africa has no strategic plan for resilience and economic independence, it will always be part of the Global North's strategic plans to acquire cheap raw materials, use low-cost labor, and sell to African consumers.


Can we expect from de Paris summit a Marshall plan dedicated to the Africa’s health policy ?

I don't think there is going to be any earth-shattering public health announcements coming out of this summit. Suffice it to say that Africa's most severe brain drain is in the public health sector. The continent spends billions of dollars training young health professionals who are promptly syphoned out by countries in the Global North. I would also add that the external debt payments that I mentioned above often mean public health investments are dropped to the bottom of the priorities list.


Expected issue from the Paris summit : IMF SDR allocations. An efficient solution for African countries in the current context ?

The IMF's decision to increase SDR allocations is certainly welcome news. We know that the maximum amount of new SDR allocations cannot exceed $680 billion (without a vote in the U.S. Congress). We also know that this is going to favor rich countries who don't actually need SDR reserves. Those rich countries could either lend or donate their SDRs to countries that need those FX reserves the most. In the bigger scheme of things, the boost in FX reserves is a welcome bandaid relief during the COVID19 crisis, but it does not change the structural problems I described above. Temporary relief is good, but we need a sustainable long-term structural transformation that builds resilience and economic independence.


*Fadhel Kaboub Associate Professor of Economics, Denison University (Ohio) President, Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity


Interviewed by : Serge SEPPOH

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