African past(s) and the ideological antecedents to economic policy-making

12 Jan, 2020 - 00:01 0 Views
African past(s) and the ideological antecedents to economic policy-making

The Sunday News

Richard Mahomva 

THE present-day discourse on economic policy-making is grounded on a history of economic inequalities which modelled the structure of pre-independent African state. Therefore, the post-independent state’s economic equality ideological premise must be the starting point of justifying our contesting economic policy continuities and discontinuities. 

Ideology and history are critical in filtering logic(s) which are disengaged from the perennial aspirations of a people as predetermined by their past and philosophies of freedom which bind them. Policy-making is an expression of cogent self-determination and preservation of political capital. 

Therefore, the successive highlights of power-shifts between 2008 and 2018 help in unpacking the underlying motives of economic policy-making as either partisan or national interest motivated. As such, there is a need to appreciate that while policy continuities and discontinuities may be politically inspired, there is a need for policy creation to be more grounded on enduring and unifying aspirations of the masses who are the mainstay of longevity for the party given the mandate to govern. 

The power to govern is incentivised by a set of historically grounded principles which when dissolved in favour of expedience threaten the core of national interest and the very existentiality of the interests of those in power.

Economic policy-architecture in Zimbabwe is underpinned on a broader African post-colonial “liberation” experience. As such, the African state has been more defined in terms of economic liberation and delinking of the means of production from colonial axis of power (Adedeji and Ake (1981 p 31). 

On the diametrical opposite, this position has attracted a neo-colonial counter-attack as being retrogressively populist and out of touch with global market culture realities (Mills & Herbst, 2012). This does not erase the relevance of the class, regionalism and gender binary questions which challenge the given notions of equal opportunity access in the context of Zimbabwe’s local economic plans of action (Moyo & Yeros 2005, 2007; Moyo, Chambati, Murisa, Siziba, C. Dangwa, Mujeyi, and Nyoni (2009); Scoones, Marongwe. Mavedzenge. Mahenene, F. Murimbarimba, and Sukume (2010) ; Chambati 2011; Moyo 2011a, 2011b; Mkodzongi 2013a, 2013b). 

In essence the exaggerated definition of African states’ economic policy-making as populist ignores the post-colonial quest for equitable resource distribution and meeting the economic livelihood interests of formerly marginalised African citizenry. This corroborates the position by Mkodzongi & Lawrence (2019 p 1).

More importantly, the major beneficiaries of the land reform were peasants who now have access to better-quality land and natural resources that were previously enclosed and enjoyed by a few whites under the bi-modal agrarian structure inherited from colonialism, that is, white commercial farmers and agro-industrial estates on the one hand and small-scale black commercial farmers and black peasant families on the other.

A prototype milestone economic decolonisation experiments can be attributed to Julius Nyerere’s principle of radical policy between 1967 and 1985. The Tanzanian model for policy-change was characterised by a deliberate position to dismantle British colonial economic monopoly and exploitation in Tanzania (Ibhawoh & Dibua, 2003). 

This saw the compulsory collectivisation of pri­vate farms in Tanzania and emerging African farmers on communal farms and this process became the defining mark of the Ujamaa economic blueprint (Mitchell, 2014). 

The Ujamaa economic trajectory was founded on indigenous, self-containment social and economic survival practices grounded on Tanzania’s traditions (Ibhawoh & Dibua, 2003). There is a substantial correlation between this concept with that of Scientific-Socialism principle advocated by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. 

The Tanzanian (1967-1985) and Ghanaian (1960-1966) experiences are intertwined to the so­cialist ideological paradigm imported from East Europe with a strong grounding to rethink Western defined economic models anchored on capitalism. 

This pathological embodiment of the Marxist economic collectivism is also defining in the discourse of pan-Africanism as an ideological vehicle for economic decolonisation. The same genes of a Marxist and pan-Africanist predisposition can be linked to the Zimbabwean context under Robert Mugabe from the late 90s up to the time of his resignation in 2017 (Simpson & Hawkins, 2018). 

The wave of the Third-Chimurenga which swept through Zimbabwe after the land reform exercise had undertones of Marxist and pan-African anti-colonial leanings. This produced a defining outstanding characteristic of his radical economic indigenisation stance christened as Mugabeism (Ranger, 2004; Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2015, Mahomva, 2015). The competing discourses of Marxism and pure pan-Africanist economic trajectory characterise the complexity of the complexion of economic decolonisation in Africa (Mahomva, 2014). 

At the same time, this has harboured some contradictions where shifting economic policy positions are concerned. As noted in the seemingly socialist context of the ideological grounding of early independent Zimbabwe, Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) was adopted by the Government and this created early criticisms for the Mugabe administration (Kanyenze, 2011). 

In the same vein to attract Western political sympathy after the exit of Robert Mugabe, the current administration has been problematised in some quotas for its flirting with the West in its bid to solicit access sources of foreign capital. 

Blunt reversals of the economic indigenisation path have become the centre of the Second Republic’s transitional embodiment. 

To this end, the last decades’ economic policy-making after independence can be largely defined in terms of contested attempts to either dismantle or consolidate the asymmetrical nuances of economic resource ownership in Africa. 

In Zimbabwe, the resolution of the land-question under Robert Mugabe was a milestone take-off to the economic indigenisation project (Scoones. Marongwe. Mavedzenge. Mahenene, F. Murimbarimba, and Sukume (2010); Muzondidya, 2007). The consequent shift from a seemingly economic radical redistribution propensity with the coming of the Mnangagwa administration is not limited to the Zimbabwean experience, but it is an approach which is in sync the reversal of racially structured economic policy-shifts which can be linked to Tanzania after Nyerere and Ghana after Nkrumah stepped down (Zvoushe, Uwizeyimana, Auriacombe, 2017). Across the continent, such policy position U-turns experienced during transitional episodes are perceived as means of correcting the policy pitfalls of radical and race anchored distributionism (Mamdani, 2016). Mills & Herbst (2012) support the turn to neo-liberal economics and justify it is a way of productively exploiting 60 percent of the world’s platinum deposits which Africa is endowed with, almost 90 percent of the world’s diamonds and 40 percent of the world’s gold. 

Mills & Herbst (2012) further submit that the unproductive farm-land in Africa can be fully exploited through solicit of international capital. Therefore, 47 percent of the African population living in poverty are labour capital assets of the continent.

The case presented by Mills & Herbst (2012) substantiates the extent to which African economic policy-making is entangled in both anti-imperialist and neo-colonial dilemmas. This is chiefly because our fight for independence was tied to economic self-reliance and yet the sources of capital to drive the post-colonial state are largely colonial. 

However, from the opposite end, the battle to dismantle and preserve white monopoly capital remains at the centre of economic policy-making in Africa. 

This explains why regional integration in Africa is based on the need to deepen cooperation anchored on an outright fight against neo-imperialism through economic development centred diplomacy in Southern-Africa in a bid to secure the continuity of the decolonisation agenda. In light of this regional anchored perspective, Christopher Mutsvangwa, the former Zimbabwean Presidential Advisor argues that: 

There must be strengthened effort in harmonising African countries’ economic policy frameworks as an enabling mechanism to take full advantage of the newly formed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA). This calls upon SADC states to drive the sub-region economic integration to make member-states an optimal destination for capital, to allow mobility of labour and the unimpeded cross-border trade of goods and services. 

The submission by Mutsvangwa resolves the complexities and complexions of ideological fundamentals of economic policy architecture in Africa and Zimbabwe in general. The core aim of economic policy-making is linked to liberating the access to the means of production for formally marginalised African people and nation-states. In support of this assertion Mamdani (2016 p 79) argues: 

Our understanding of decolonization has changed over time: from politi­cal, to economic to discursive (epistemological). 

The political understanding of decolonization has moved from one limited to political independence, independence from external domination, to a broader transformation of institutions, especially those critical to the reproduction of racial and ethnic subjectivities legally enforced under colonialism.

However, the neo-liberal tilting of the post-colonial state is perceived as a shift from the broad-based terms of linking political power with fundamental economic redistribution tenets. The face-value rationality of the establishment of the anti-colonial African state was underpinned on uneven racial terms (Andreasson, 2010). Therefore, the restoration of socio-economic balance as part of a humanising agenda becomes pivotal in introspecting the ideological and historical antecedents of the impact of political transitions in driving economic policy-architecture in Zimbabwe. Mamdani (2016 p79) dovetails this position by stating that the conceptual framing for economic-policy making:

 . . . has also broadened from one of local ownership over local resources to the transformation of both internal and external institutions that sustain unequal colonial-type economic relations. The epistemological dimension of decolonization has focused on the categories with which we make, un­make and remake, and thereby apprehend, the world. It is intimately tied to our notions of what is human, what is particular and what is universal.

The primary facet of colonisation was economic from the outset. This validates the need to understand the role of economic policy-making as a colonial delinking expedition in African politics. Therefore, in advancing a sustainable development paradigm, African politics must be defined in terms of restorative economic transformation. 

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