Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

Book Review: Africa Development, Special Issue on Transforming Global Relations for a Just World

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Guest Editor, Vusi Gumede. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, Vol. XL, No. 3, 2015, 159 p. By PAPE CHÉRIF BERTRAND BASSÈNE, Ph.D

Africa Development, the quarterly bilingual social science journal of CODESRIA whose major focus is on issues which are central to the development of society, and whose principal objective is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas among African scholars from a variety of intellectual persuasions and various disciplines has published in the current year (2015), the N°3 of its 40th Volume. A special issue on Transforming Global Relations for a Just World, with Professor Vusi Gumede – Head at Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, the University of South Africa, Pretoria – as guest editor.

There are 7 articles in this issue addressing the theme of African development as well as other pertinent aspects. As highlighted by Vusi Gumede, this special issue of Africa Development interrogates the dynamics of global relations for a just world. The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) partnered with the World Social Science Forum 2015 on the theme of ‘Transforming Global Relations for a Just World’.

The papers in this special issue cover the following areas: changing imperatives of international development; emerging powers and impact on international development; the reform of international finance institutions and the growth-development nexus debates. In addition, some papers analyse the origins, contexts, complexities and contradictions of the lopsided global order and their effects on development and implications for Africa’s development.

Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s article, Genealogies of Coloniality and Implications for Africa’s Development [pp.13 – 40], presents us how Africa was conceived as an idea and integrated into the evolving Euro-North American-centric modernity, which is a tale of genealogies of colonialities and African resistance(s). Genealogies of coloniality span eight broad and overlapping epochs in the production of Africa that impinged on its development in various direct and indirect ways. The eight epochs distilled are the paradigm of discovery and mercantilist order running from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth century dominated by the slave trade and mercantilism; the post-1648 Westphalian order that inaugurated the exclusion of Africa from sovereignty; the 1884-5 Berlin consensus, scramble for and conquest of Africa that concretised the dismemberment and fragmentation of Africa; colonial governmentality that was characterised by production of African colonial subjectivity; the post-1945 United Nations decolonisation normative order that amounted to the accommodation of Africa to the lowest echelons of the modern world system; the Cold War coloniality that polarized Africa ideologically and reduced it to a theatre of proxy hot wars; the post-Cold War triumphalism of neoliberal order; the post-9/11 anti-terrorist order that produced a new securitization order; and the current coloniality of markets and new scramble for Africa. The article posits that African development’s trials and tribulations are deeply embedded within these overlapping epochs that were accompanied by epistemicides, genocides, usurpations, appropriations and disruptions. Africa is today still struggling to free itself from the constraining global colonial matrices of power that have been in place since the time of colonial encounters.

Applying the broad theoretical framework of Professor Gatsheni, Akhona Nkenkana article, No African futures without the Liberation of Women [pp.41-58] examines the gender transformation in the context of the transformation of global relations for a just world. Thus, Nkenkana’s coloniality of gender speaks to the perennial question of the liberation of women from various forms of oppression. The ‘modern’ world system and its global order have remained fundamentally patriarchal. This implies that any initiative aimed at creating African futures has to address the fundamental question of the liberation of women. This article deploys decolonial feminist ideas of Thomas Sankara, amomg others, to push forward the frontiers of the struggle for the liberation of women as a constitutive part of initiatives of creating African futures. Its central argument is that women’s liberation struggle should not be reduced to efforts of incorporation of women within the patriarchal, colonial and imperial modern system/s women seek to reject.
For the author, decolonising gender, distilling from Maria Lugones’ theoretical framework, is to enact a critique of racialised, colonial, and capitalist heterosexualist gender oppression as a lived transformation of the social. As she argues that one must understand that the instrumentality of the colonial/modern gender system is subjecting Africans in all domains of existence and therefore the gender transformation discourse is not just a women’s emancipation discourse but rather efforts of both men and women to overcoming the colonial global structure that is subjectifying them in different ways. Consequently, the change of the system and its structures, which are essentially patriarchal, is the main mechanism that will bring about possible equal futures for women in Africa, as her case studies of Rwanda and South Africa show.

Devan Pillay tackles the issue of, The Global Economic Crisis and the Africa Rising Narrative [pp.59-76]. This article argues that, the seductive Africa rising narrative is misleading. For Dr. Pillay it draws the people of Africa into a false sense of promise – of ‘development’ and ‘decent’ jobs for all – that can never be delivered by the current economic growth paradigm. A radical rethink is needed to break out of the cycle of deepening inequality, dispossession and ecological devastation. The ‘modernisation’ paradigm based on incessant production and consumption can only meet the needs of an enclave within a sea of poverty, pollution and plunder. Africa is regarded by transnational corporations and their governments as the last piece of virgin territory left to exploit for maximum returns. This search for new avenues of accumulation must be understood in the context of the intertwined global socio-economic as well as ecological crisis, where capital acts as a spreading virus. It develops but also destroys; if left to its own devices, its destructive power is incalculable.This article situates the Africa rising narrative, and the challenges of growth and development, within the context of the global poly-crisis. It examines the economic and ecological dimensions of this continuing crisis, and asks whether Africa’s future prospects lie with mimicking the industrial development paths of Europe and North America, which leads to enclave development, or in forging a new holistic developmental path that avoids the pitfalls of dispossession, environmental injustice and rising social inequality.

Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) and Africa: New Projected Developmental Paradigms [pp.77-96], reflects on the dynamics of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) states’ political economy and its implications for Africa’s continuous effort to search for new developmental paradigms. The author highlighted that based on this dynamics, it is argued that the emerging markets and economies in the Global South, regardless of the ideological contradictions and internal structural political weaknesses among its members, implies that the business-as-usual approach in the practices of the institutions of international political economy and world politics is no longer the only pragmatic way of conducting business. Amongst the core questions addressed in Lumumba-Kasongo’s article, are to know what are the BRICS States are specifically proposing to the existing world order and the global south, what the Brics as countries have in common and how this commonality can be converted in favour of African progress.

Phineas Bbaala article, Emerging Questions on the Shifting SinoAfrica Relations: ‘Win-Win’ or ‘Win-Lose’? [pp.97-120], also deals with Africa’s relations in the context of the global south in transforming global relations for a just world. The author examines the relationship between Africa and China, answering the question of whether Africa-China relations are benefitting Africa in any tangible manner. Phineas Bbaala highlights that notwithstanding China’s long solidarity with Africa throughout the liberation struggle, and its contribution to the continent through foreign direct investment, infrastructure development, trade and bilateral aid, some of its recent engagements with the continent have raised questions of neo-colonialism tantamount to those in the North-South relations. In order words, are the new Sino-Africa relations mainly driven by China’s hunger for Africa’s natural resources and its search for international markets for its manufactures, and business opportunities for its multinational corporations? Phineas Bbaala demonstrates that the new Sino-Africa economic relations, although still largely ‘win-win’ could soon plunge into ‘win-lose’ relations in favour of China.

Politics of Financialisation and Inequality: Transforming Global Relations for Inclusive Development [pp. 121-138] by Samuel Oloruntoba, examines the nature and scope of capitalism. For the author, inequality remains one of the most fundamental challenges of the contemporary world. It has become a global phenomenon which affects the underclass, the deprived and the poor both in the global north and south. Despite the advancement in technology which has fuelled economic growth and fostered cross-national mobility of factors of production, inequality and its twin, poverty, remain major issues of inquiry among scholars, consideration for policy makers and concern for the poor. Most studies on inequality have been preoccupied with the economic forces. This article locates the growing degrees of inequality in the world within the global politics of finance in which the transnational capitalist class (TCC) adopts a reactionary ideology of neoliberalism to further their interest through the creation of massive fictitious wealth, maintenance of stranglehold on domestic and international policy institutions and spreading of the illogic of the sanctity of the market. I argue that capitalism in its current form is unsustainable for the human society. Consequently, the structure of power that informs and maintains the current order must be transformed to foster inclusive development. Despite the resistance to such transformations by the members of the TCC at the core, the process is inevitable due to the internal contradictions within the system itself, the emergence of new loci of power from different regions of the world and increased revolutionary pressures from below. Overall, the article concludes that there is an inextricable link between financialisation and global inequality.

This special issue is closed by Yash Tandon article’s, Development is Resistance [pp.139-159]. Tandon’s main argument is that, in our epoch, resistance against imperial domination is the first law of motion of development. The article looks at various aspects of the theory and practice of ‘development’, focusing mainly on the theory as expounded by economic theoreticians for the last three hundred years. The discussion is situated firmly in the context of the harsh reality of imperialism. The West, as stated by Tandon, suffers from an acute case of amnesia when it comes to recognising imperialism and its role in destroying the cultural, economic and social roots of Africa’s evolution into self-sustaining and respected member of the international community. The author makes a point that the fundamental reason why the ‘African economy is shattered’ is because of the so-called ‘free trade’ dogma. This and other points captured in his article support or inform his main argument that ‘development is resistance’.

March 11 2016