The new predators

Publish date 10-07-2023

by redazione Unidialogo

Between war and hunger in Africa there is a sui generis economic interconnection, because the great world powers try to take and leave nothing. Many years ago a United Nations theorist, Richard Auty, in 1993 coined a slogan for Africa, the curse of resources. He meant to explain that the richer a territory is in a particular resource, the more that resource will be plundered, that territory will be robbed, the more the population will be impoverished and therefore a war will be fought for those resources. We ordinary people sometimes risk having a distorted vision of Africa, considering it a poor continent, while in reality it is the richest on the planet, with many resources both above and below its soil.

A reality that the great powers have been aware of for centuries.
Already in the nineteenth century in Europe the race for Africa began, the so-called Scramble for Africa, a literally "elbowing" to grab its riches. Each took colonies, including Italy, even if it came last.

We are now witnessing a second race, in which not only Europe is the protagonist, for wheat and other commodities necessary for modern technologies, such as the rare earths - coltan... - that make our mobile phones work. Then there is the wheat aspect, which depends on the war talk in Ukraine. African countries, in fact, have welcomed Russia's condemnation proposal in different ways, precisely because of their dependence on the grain trade.

Then there was the attitude of some Arab countries, which bought large tracts of land in Africa, I am thinking, for example, on the Ethiopian plateau. In agreement with the state, they bought and exploit these large estates, needing them as desert countries. The same has been done by China, which guaranteed itself African oil and grain, while Russia is guaranteeing itself the diamonds of Sudan while it is taking Libyan oil to somehow continue to finance the war against Ukraine. And the US secretary of state has just returned from a trip to Ethiopia and the Sahel, promising humanitarian aid in exchange for support aimed at exploiting resources.

And here we come to the other big problem that the black continent is experiencing, and that is corruption. A problem that arises from the lack of vision of the common good.
Why? Because they are relatively young states, born 50 or 60 years ago with independence, they may have maintained ties with the former colonial power but do not have a vision of the state, everyone tends to think of themselves, of their own elite. They have been drawn on the map, they still don't have a common sense; and if those who colonized them in the past continue to fuel internal divisions for reasons of interest, here comes the war with jihadist terrorism.
Through Somalia it first spread to the Sahel and then to North Africa. In all of this, those who sell weapons gain, it's a skyrocketing market.

Finally, the forced impoverishment imposed on Africa due to international exploitation is an indirect cause of forced emigration to Western countries. I have recently returned from Tunisia and with great surprise I discovered a sobering fact. Italian oil is now experiencing a crisis because we had a disease of olive trees in Puglia, xylella. Now, from Tunis to Algeria it's all an olive grove. Where do those olives go? They go partly to Italy, partly to Spain.
I hope they are sold as such, even if I have never seen oil made in Tunisia on our bottles… Small producers are the weak link. If we think that we in Italy still have a very large exploitation chain despite the law on illegal hiring issued in 2016, let us imagine the situation in countries where there is no capacity to form a consortium. Most of the fish sold in Italy comes from Tunisia, perhaps not all purchased regularly. So we eat a lot of Tunisian fish, especially sardines, but we have to ask ourselves how much local fishermen are paid: if they are big they save themselves, otherwise they end up as smugglers to round up the income of 150 dollars a month. The bottom line is that poverty and exploitation breed lawlessness or worse.

But all is not lost. We must have great hope in what politics can do. For example, I believe in the winning method of cooperation. I am convinced that Europe and Africa could work together in this, they are one and have a common destiny.
Not only can we who overlook Africa think so, but also other continents bordering each other can realize this destiny. Only politics is able to give new rules. 30 years of globalization based exclusively on the economy cause disasters and a world where there are a few rich people who get richer and richer and on the other side many poor people getting poorer. Mediation is needed, and this mediation can only be carried out by politics.

By the editorial team
NP April 2023

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