GAME OF LOANS

Debt crisis and perpetuating African slave trade

The story of Africans who sold others during slave trade and now through debt slavery is under-told

In Summary

• Of late, African presidents have been lining up (together with their wives)  n Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping.

• They are investing in unviable grandiose projects with little return on investment. Some of them  are nothing more than ego projects framed as legacy projects.

Uhuru China Trip
Uhuru China Trip

There has been a lot of talk of late about the rising debt and crisis of African countries. The interesting bit is that we have been here before. This is the reason why.

The life-sucking Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1990s were proposed by the neo-liberal the Bretton Woods Institutions (IMF and World Bank) after the commodity prices boom of the late 1970s that was proceeded by debt crisis. This was precipitated by the Ronald Reagan and Thatcher administrations. 

History is repeating itself.

Magazines and newspapers such as the Economist, Financial Post and the The Yew York Times were awash with acres of stories of how Africa was finally rising after the 2008 global financial meltdown.

With the big lie that African economies were worth much more than their true value and without regard for factors such as liquidity, African governments went on a borrowing spree. Kenya, for example, was all of a sudden told it's economy was 25 per cent richer and was now a lower-middle-income country. 

Many countries went for commercial loans popularly known as Eurobonds that came at higher interest rates and shorter repayment periods rather than those long-term ones at a lower interest rate.

This is partly because of the projects that are tied to fixed political terms, greed to make wealth and elections campaign financing demands by the political and business elite.

The privileged club sees the citizenry as nothing more than a market to slave for them and be exploited for whatever gain, trade, charity or otherwise. It doesn't matter for how long the slaves can carry the yoke as long as they gain instant wealth and fulfil their political and business ambitions.

In the 11th Parliament, I remember vividly how Majority leader Aden Duale brought the infamous motion to increase our nominal sovereign debt threshold. It passed despite protest from some of us.  Hansard records are there for verification. 

Now we have a debt crisis once again, with the new lender being China. For the last 18 years, Africa was on a growth trajectory with an average growth of five per cent, while other economies had stagnated or grew at less than one per cent.

Of late, African presidents have been lining up (together with their wives)  in Beijing to meet  Xi Jinping, who is now the Chinese President for life. African Presidents have a mentor. 

Looking at them, they are like schoolchildren receiving their report cards from their headmaster. They are investing in unviable grandiose projects with little return on investment for their people. Some of then are nothing more than ego projects framed as legacy projects with the attendant financial kickbacks and contracts.

They are driven by the visible hand of the government to mask the invisible hand of the market (private profiteering).

This is the reason why while China has used $1.5 billion (Sh164.31 billion) to build a 26-mile sea road connecting several islands to its mainland. A country like Zambia has used $1.2 billion to do a 300km dual carriage highway, and which will soon be full of traffic just like our Thika Superhighway that cost about Sh660 million per kilometre.

he SGR story is another example of this incestuous relationship. 

The crumbs that the political and business leaders get under the table are used to finance opulence in a sea of deprivation and abject poverty. They then procure hero worshiping (from the village to the national level) and votes during elections to continue stealing from the poor and maintaining their dubiously acquired wealth and status. 

Soon, there will be a new song in town for the cancellation of odious debt and that Africans are being re-colonised by a new master in town and from the East. 

The story of those fellow Africans who sold others during the slave trade and now through debt slavery is under-told, underestimated and the same all in all. 

By the time the World Cup song It's time for Africa  by Shakira rent the air in 2010, all was looking great for the continental take off. We were on the runway. 

Eight years later, we seem to have squandered our moment.  What is wrong with us?

“In matters public affairs, it’s always about which end you start from, the money (Right) or the hear t(Left). Eventually, humanity needs both....a third way....Keep serving. #MwauraSpeaks