The Alternative Report on Africa (AROA) is a new and essential initiative of prestigious African and international institutions (Enda Tiers Monde, Third World Forum, CODESRIA, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), AFARD, Institute for African Futures (IAF), Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, TRUSTAFRICA, LEGS AFRICA, Alliance pour la Refondation de la Gouvernance en Afrique (ARGA), West Africa Think tank (WATHI), IPAR, etc.)
The Report was officially launched at a ceremony held on May 25, 2021,
at Enda Ters- Monde headquarters in Dakar, Senegal.
Faced with the kaleidoscope of reports on Africa ranking the countries of the continent according to exogenous and neo-liberal criteria and indicators (Doing Business, World Bank, IMF), the Alternative Report on Africa (AROA) aims at the ideological and epistemological reversal of analyses on the continent, the deepening and diversification of issues and areas addressed, and the measurement of indicators of progress and sovereignty of Africans. Also carried by high- level African personalities and scientists, this initiative will develop Reports that truly reflect the sensitivity and experience of Africans in different environments.
Its objective is to contribute, in a decisive way, to the consolidation of the transformations at work in the African societies and institutions
towards autonomy and sovereignty. It is a question of making visible the dynamics and mutations at work on the continent, in particular those which are carried by the Africans in their majority and their diversity. By this means, RASA wants to make visible and strengthen the real societal transformations that are irrigated by an uninhibited spirit, and capacities for innovation and conquest of their autonomy, which are not sufficiently reflected in the reports on Africa and their instruments.
Thus, the debates and spaces for defining strategy or policies will be fed and enriched by endogenous knowledge that makes sense to Africans. This knowledge will be produced on a credible basis and will value African innovations and empowerment.
RASA is also a response to the lack of foresight capacity of African institutions and actors who are driving the continent’s dynamics. It will inform African projections of the future in the context of a return to long-term planning at national and continental levels. The RASA will be an instrument for measuring the progress of long- term plans and the shortcomings in the direction of sovereignty of these projections towards the future.
Alternative Report on Africa Number One
The sovereignty of African societies facing globalization
The Alternative Report on Africa Number One (AROA) examines the situation of the African continent and its desirable developments through the prism of sovereignty. Its publication comes in the context of a serious health and economic crisis.
The imperatives of managing the pandemic have once again highlighted the difficulties African countries face in their capacity to transform a given situation and guarantee the well-being of the greatest possible number of people in their care. The report rightly believes that the issue of Africa’s sovereignty updates the crucial question of the right to self-determination. This quest for sovereignty takes place in the context of a globalization, wherein countries are locked into rules and principles of international law that they find difficult to master, while transnational corporations transgress them with the complicity of political elites. This frequently hinders the legibility of African
strategies for sovereignty, where such strategies do indeed exist. From this perspective, sovereignty should be understood in its popular and national dimensions.
Remaining faithful to their initial ambition, the initiators of this report seek to position and deepen a radically new approach that focuses on true socio-economic dynamics, popular innovations, immaterial resources, the central role of culture, the bio- economic link with nature, and local empowerment. The Report is articulated around seven main axes, visiting each of the dimensions of African societies’ sovereignty facing globalization.
In the first axis, the authors show that sovereignty struggles with external imperialism and hegemony, on the one hand, and is conflicted by its national and popular dimensions on the other hand.
African countries are more concerned with the destabilizing repercussions of free trade than with its benefits. The precepts of the neo-liberal doxa, in addition to reducing the meagre revenues of public authorities, emphasize the subordinate position of developing countries.
Unlike the “classical” literature on sovereignty, which focuses on national sovereignty, this report mobilizes the concept of popular sovereignty in order to gain a deeper understanding of the real mechanisms underlying social transformations. By taking popular sovereignty into account, this definition points to the inviolable degree of sovereignty held by each citizen and the potential of collective
power. This is what differentiates it from national sovereignty, which is perceived as abstract and fictitious.
In this respect, the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis have operated as a parser and provided the opportunity for a breakthrough that should be seized to highlight the stakes of this quest for sovereignty. After recalling its economic, health and social consequences, the authors show that the option dictated by the Organization for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD) is that of a return to growth based on an emergence strategy through the promotion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), the reduction of customs duties, etc.
This return to “normality” is synonymous with the continuation of a globalized economic system that has proved incompatible with the economic and political sovereignty of African countries. In this sense the report concludes that for the
Africa to come, disconnection from this system is the path of lucidity advocated by Samir Amin. In fact, sovereignty cannot be exercised without a strategy for uncoupling African countries from the globalized capitalist system.
Firstly, we recall that economic policy orientations for Africa continue to be prescribed by international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the OECD, or the World Economic Forum. Secondly, the authors show that the heavy dependence on foreign direct investment (FDI) has facilitated the offensive of transnational corporations that African states seek to attract, hoping for a windfall effect. This path is no guarantee of economic sovereignty as multinationals use their considerable clout to dictate economic policies that strengthen their economic and financial power to the detriment of the well-being of the majority of Africans.
The report also argues that Africa is far too dependent on the outside world for ideas about what socio-economic development means in operational terms and how it should be achieved. In this sense, it postulates that “development in its economic dimension cannot begin without insisting on the importance of the articulation to be found with ‘relational capital’, which is one of the focal points through which we must think about the so-called ‘informality’ in African production dynamics and the urgent need to increase the production and diffusion of knowledge intrinsic to Africa”. In putting forward such a thesis, the AROA argues for the construction of new paradigms, the valuing of endogenous knowledge, the development of a new methodological apparatus and a disruption of the linearity which locks the continent into the conceptual and methodological straitjacket of economic neo-liberalism.
In the face of this continued neoliberal capitalist offensive, African states are, however, attempting to organize their resistance by way of pan- African initiatives. The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) on 1st January 2021 is assessed with reservations in this report. The authors believe that the AfCTA should be an instrument of economic decolonization capable of cushioning the effects of the economic partnership agreements signed with the European Union, provided that the previously concluded agreements are rendered
null and void. An initiative such as the African Mining Vision retains the stamp of a neo-colonial approach and its narrow and unambitious vision has raised more pessimism about its potential as a lever for structural change.
At the country level, the report recommends some ways to regain food sovereignty, develop a strong and autonomous industrial fabric and become less dependent on external management of mining resources. Thus, for food sovereignty, the report recommends promoting agricultural development based on four pillars: a radical reform of agricultural land tenure; a guarantee of sustainably remunerative agricultural prices; the promotion of agro-ecological production systems; consumer compensation for agricultural price raises and changes in their dietary habits. For the industrial sector, the report proposes to explore a strategy of moving away from insertion into global value chains. More specifically, with this perspective African countries should focus on developing their textile industry which has been the basis of the industrialization of most countries of the global South in meeting domestic market demand. However, this nascent industry will require the support of measured educational protectionism. Finally, in order to reverse the dependency on neo-colonial dynamics, the management of extractive and land resources must follow a systemic approach to transformation by activating three policy levers: developing strategic business poles, favoring regional production networks and strengthening the capacity of companies to prosper in new markets.
Finally, in order to assess economic sovereignty, the authors reviewed China-Africa cooperation, examining the question whether Africa is condemned to remain a reservoir of raw materials and a market for Chinese industrial hegemony. They argue that Africa must find ways to make better use of its natural resources by reinventing local value-adding strategies. The first step for Africa is thus to gain financial autonomy and rely on its own infrastructure by promoting its private sector.
The second axis is economic sovereignty.
Monetary sovereignty, the third axis of this report, has been approached from the perspective of the post-CFA franc, but also from the perspective of the mobilization of actual resources, the basis of sovereign development.
This analysis is based on a diagnosis of existing monetary sovereignty in WAMU and the prospects for the creation of a single ECOWAS currency: the ECOWAS Eco.
Firstly, the WAMU zone is analyzed as a non- optimal currency zone. Subsequently, a much more critical view focuses on the issue of monetary sovereignty through the prism of modern monetary theory. The latter defines monetary sovereignty on the basis of four necessary conditions: having a national or federal currency issued by its own central bank, levying taxes and duties in a proprietary currency, absence of debts denominated in foreign currency, and exchange rate flexibility. According to this theory, WAMU countries do not possess monetary sovereignty. Moreover, according to this report, the zone is a handicap for the mobilization of the real resources of its member countries. In addition to the fact that the functioning of the franc currency zone relies on maintaining/reinforcing dependence on France and the European Union, the focus on public deficits in the WAMU zone implies governments’ marginal contribution to the accumulation of financial wealth by the private sector. Ideally, public deficit should be financed in national currency and directed to the domestic private sector with a view to boosting domestic productive capacities. But this option is a blind spot for a currency zone defending a fixed parity for a currency under the control of a foreign country.
This report analyses two possible options for the establishment of the ECO as the single currency of the ECOWAS space. The first option is pragmatic and analyses the different transition scenarios. Consequently, the first scenario envisages the ECO as a simple avatar of the CFA franc. It enlarges the perimeter of the monetary zone without impacting on monetary sovereignty, which remains confiscated by the “guarantor”, the European Central Bank.
The second scenario assumes a “real ECO” based on real convergence, that of GDP per capita and not, as in the case of the ECO-CFA, on the respect of nominal convergence criteria. In this scenario, ECOWAS economies would have the obligation to converge towards the leading trio of Cape Verde, Nigeria and Ghana. The third scenario assumes a return to the WAMZ philosophy as envisaged in 2000 in Accra (Ghana). At the time, six English-speaking West African countries (Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone) announced their intention to create a second monetary zone in West Africa with ECO as its currency, alongside WAMU. This configuration would result in the creation of an “ECO-Naira”, under the leadership of Nigeria piqued by the Francophone initiative of an “ECO-CFA” that would be forced through. The last scenario stipulates the creation of the ECO as a common currency, based on national currencies. As for the issue of economic convergence, the AROA concludes that it is “neither a prerequisite nor a consequence” of the creation of a single currency. Nevertheless, the success of this leap into the unknown without a safety net presupposes the effectiveness of a number of factors, including: the intensification of trade within ECOWAS, an increase in risk- sharing mechanisms and a deep and shared conviction of a common destiny.
The second option, a more critical approach, considers that in its present conception the single ECOWAS currency would provide only a symbolic alternative to the CFA franc. It would not allow for better mobilization of domestic resources since it is based on the same monetarist logic as the CFA franc – giving priority to the fight against inflation on the basis of a split between monetary and fiscal policy. Moreover, without the prior involvement of a federal government (or at least advanced forms of budgetary solidarity), a possible single ECOWAS currency would pose similar problems to those of the CFA franc.
The fourth axis of this report is cultural sovereignty.
A cross-disciplinary, pan-Africanist approach is adopted to highlight the culture-economy relationship, which has been developed in three stages. A first stage consisted in noting the failures of neo-liberal developmental models,
both exogenous, acultural (without regard for cultural aspects) and western-centered, by putting into perspective the failures of the market- focused approach and the costs of a certain cultural alienation. From this point of view, it turns out that the adoption of acultural economic models and varying degrees of colonial mimicry of knowledge and its applications have come at the cost of significantly depreciating the centuries- old attractiveness of African cultural products for the rest of the world. In a second stage, culture is seen as a strategic idiosyncratic resource for African economies. In this scenario, artefacts, mentifacts and sociofacts produced on the basis of endogenous knowledge must be judiciously exploited for potentially virtuous applications in crafts, agriculture, health, pharmacopoeia, architecture and the uses of biology. Sectors such as fashion, design, cosmetics and construction are also concerned. Finally, a last step proposes to culturalise pan-Africanism in action, which would
be an indispensable contribution to the process of rooting sovereignties. Moreover, the economic version of pan-Africanism, which translates into the quest for solidarity, unity, emancipation, in promotion of economic, monetary African and diasporic integration, would significantly support its strategy in the cultural industries and crafts. By further culturalising the paradigm of economic pan-Africanism, a substantial re-evaluation of the chapters devoted to languages and promoting the role of culture in the economy could boost the best of African performances internationally (crafts, works of art, music, gastronomy, board games, African textiles, etc.), thus substantially increasing the chances of success of an authentic and credible pan-African project.
For its fifth axis, in the context of the advent of the Internet, rapidly developing computer networks, and the birth of cyberspace, the AROA considered it necessary to examine the notion of sovereignty through the prism of the digital revolution.
Digital sovereignty is seen as the faculty that Internet actors and users should enjoy to carry out their activities in complete freedom, far from the diktat of the State or transnational corporations. Although Africa is certainly in a situation of digital and technological dependency, we believe that it can meet the challenge and this will require investments in many dimensions of digital sovereignty. Firstly, the autonomous management of national top level domain names, better known as Country Code Top Level Domains or ccTLDs by national and regional structures, should promote the addressing of web or mail servers for the benefit of their names and not those of the first generic names (gTLDs) in “.com”, “.net” or “.org”. Secondly, this report advocates breaking with the use of proprietary software by putting in place public policies making the use of free software mandatory in the public and semi-public sector, particularly in the education sector. Thirdly, with regard to the
use of cloud computing, far from promoting the limit of its use, the authors of this report propose that African states should give themselves the means to create their own cloud by investing in the creation of data centres capable of hosting the applications, data and services they need for their security and environment. Fourthly, digital sovereignty must also address the worrying issue of computer security. This has always been treated as a poor relation at a time when African countries are being called upon to ratify the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Protection of Personal Data to make it applicable as a legal framework aimed at establishing “a trusted digital space for electronic transactions, protection of personal data and the fight against cybercrime”. So in addition to the eleven African countries that already have computer emergency response teams, the other countries of the continent should do so too.
The sixth axis focuses on political sovereignty: the authors of this report believe that the federal state is the sine qua none condition for recovering internal and external sovereignty.
Thus, internal African sovereignty will necessarily involve the establishment of a politically centralized federal state run on a collegial basis. In order to ensure the territorial integrity of the large entity created, this new state must have continental armed forces. On the economic level, Africa being the “energy and raw materials centre of the world” according to Cheikh Anta Diop, the federal state, designed
on the model of the former Soviet Union and the United States, will be able to judiciously manage these resources for the benefit of Africans. This unified macro-state will mint its own currency, with a single issuing institution. Primacy will be given to industrialization and the mechanization of agriculture. Finally, a viable federal state will allow the recovery of internal sovereignty. For this to happen, the AROA concludes that the links between the different states must be binding. Furthermore, in the same vein as Cheikh Anta Diop, it is important to stress that the political unification of African countries should precede its economic regionalization. With regard to external sovereignty, we believe that it is necessary for the federal state to acquire nuclear weapons. This would enable it to pursue economic development without fear of destabilization. The federal state should also act as a shield against states tempted to invade Africa because they feel this will serve their expansionist ideological interests. Nuclear weapons capacity is the prerequisite to ending all forms of paternalism. On the economic level, a strong federal state must direct investments according to the needs of its industrialization plan, designed to reflect its development goals. Political sovereignty was also examined from the point of view offered by reviewing the record of continental integration and the current state of the African left and the pan-Africanist movement. Obstacles include the reluctance of African states to cede a portion of their sovereignty to the main organs of the African Union, the persistence of conflicts in some parts of the continent, the narrowness
of markets, poor infrastructural networks, etc. Secondly, having reviewed the very promising experiences of several post-colonial transitions in Africa, notably by revisiting the story of Thomas Sankara, we reached the conclusion that the pan-Africanist vision needs to be deepened by reflecting on the nature of the organizational framework best suited to implement a project for the true transformation of African societies. In this sense, the AROA calls for the construction of a broad front of progressive forces, based on an alternative social model born from the radical transformation of the capitalist and neo- colonial order. This requires us to set aside our dogmatic belief systems, which often prevent the search for consensus around the essential and unwittingly contribute to the destabilization of praiseworthy initiatives or disproportionately exacerbate secondary or very minor contradictions. Finally, the AROA advocates a break with the form of mimicry which consists in systematically trying to match experiences gained in specific environments with historical realities of a different order, notwithstanding that certain practices and lessons learned may have a recognizable universal dimension.
This AROA has also attempted to sketch the foundations and contours of real power for sovereign, uninhibited African states.
To this end, it has proved important to deconstruct the vision of power at a time when crises of all kinds continue to reveal the ‘impotence of the powerful’. The power of tomorrow on which African countries should rely would be that which articulates the short, medium and long term in thought and action, as well as in their combined effects and impacts. Furthermore, power must embody a “way of being” and a “way of acting” based on values, principles and a method that guarantee its legitimacy, effectiveness and sustainability. In this sense, we must pursue development of the concept of smart power or intelligent power. In fact, the smart power that we advocate for African countries is not the power which unties, but the power which connects as one :
- material and immaterial development,
- actors, issues and scales,
- the reinvention of power in the building of global governance,
- the complexity of the world and intelligence in the service of decision-making.
In conclusion, this report has highlighted the challenges and prospects of an African post- capitalist transition. These challenges and prospects are the result of an analysis which surmises that the use of technological advances will, to a large extent, determine the nature of social life in the post-capitalist era. Africans therefore need to revive, nationally and globally, radical traditions of struggle for the emergence of a new society. We need to renew enduring, long-term solidarity in order to advance the struggle of the working classes.
Thus, for Africa, it is urgent to deepen and broaden the pan-African experiences with the potential of enabling the creation of the federal state, which alone will be capable of thwarting the current strategies of domination based on the fragmentation of our peoples in weak neo-colonial states, individually incapable of guaranteeing the conditions of their own survival or of providing sufficient space for sovereignly negotiating the terms of their successful insertion into the global system.