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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: (Reclaiming) Free-Market Pan-Africanism by Shay Riley

The G8 summit, which partly focused on poverty in Africa, has come and gone. George Ayittey (USA-based economist from Ghana), economist James Shikwati (Kenya), radio journalist Andrew Mwenda (Uganda), free-market activist Franklin Cudjoe (Ghana), and politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Holland, originally from Somalia) are some individuals who have spoken out about the need for freer markets, political freedom, and good governance in Africa. When I started Booker Rising over a year ago, the original focus was black Americans. Yet the work of individuals abroad quickly expanded the blog's focus. Booker Rising has become more of a free-market internationalist blog.

Given that this blog is named after Booker T. Washington, some folks may consider it odd that I would draw upon the work of W.E.B. DuBois - a key developer of Pan-Africanism and Mr. Washington's nemesis - for this piece. Yet as I've noted before on this blog, Mr. DuBois had some good points (before he went communist - I agreed with the NAACP co-founder's pressing for civil rights through protest, a position opposed by Booker T. Washington). Pan-Africanism also even has a capitalist history, which I address below.

History of Pan-Africanism

Pan-Africanism argues that all black folks have (1) shared cultural traditions, as part of an African diaspora and preservation of a black cultural heritage; and (2) a common history of struggle against colonialism, racism, etc. and should work together for one another's empowerment, self-determination and freedom from oppression. The philosophy got a big jump in 1900, when W.E.B. DuBois organized the 1st Pan-African Congress in London, England. This idea also has part of its roots in Marcus Garvey (the Jamaican whose work was heavily influenced by Booker T. Washington), who was a mass movement pro-capitalist who unsuccessfully sought to unite the world's black populations via trade between the United States, Caribbean and Africa. He argued that communism (socialism) robs individuals of their personal initiative and called enemies of capitalism the enemies of human advancement. And let's not forget Rev. John Langalabelele Dube (1871-1946), the capitalist founding president of the African National Congress in South Africa who was known as the "Booker T. Washington of South Africa (yes, the ANC actually has pro-capitalist roots).

Pan-Africanism has stunted because the philosophy's socialist thrust stunts black progress, which has underdeveloped Africa, the Caribbean, and black communities elsewhere by not focusing on building market economies and creating wealth. Black moderates and conservatives have ceded this territory to black liberals and leftists, to detrimental results for black countries and black communities. Yet there is nothing that says that Steps 1 and 2 of Pan-Africanism must inherently lead to a socialist result. Is there space for a capitalist version? I believe so, and it is already underway.

Towards Free-Market Pan-Africanism

In his seminal book, The Souls Of Black Folk (1903), Mr. DuBois argued that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line". I argue that a key problem of the 21st century is black folks not being prepared for the globalization era. How can we ensure that black folks and black countries are competitive? Free-market Pan-Africanism recognizes that government has jacked up black folks more than anyone else. Be it colonialism, slavery, apartheid, Jim Crow, or kleptocratic Marxist rulers in Africa, government has been all up in black folks' business. Leave us alone, stay out of our way, and stop blocking our flow! The free-market version understands that black folks are capable of our own progress, when government ain't in our way.

The philosophy agrees that white colonialists - Europeans - jacked up the continent. Yet it is now unfortunately black rulers who are undermining Africans' quest for freedom just as ruthlessly (if not more so) than the white rulers before them. This is a point that socialist Pan-Africanists won't touch or discuss, in their quest to excuse misbehavior by foul black rulers: ending totalitarianism - be it by white or black folks - is our goal here. Black free-marketeers seek to promote greater economic, social, and political integration among black countries. It demands human rights from socialist and Marxist rulers now crippling the African continent. It also promotes an alternative perspective from black socialism in democracies elsewhere, which are stunting black economic progress. Instead of the black socialists' "you-owe-me" ethic, black capitalists promote a "we-owe-ourselves" ethic.

George Ayittey's latest book proclaims the coming of the "African Cheetah", fast-growing African economies. How do we help make that happen? Free-market Pan-Africanism recognizes that more capitalism can help improve Africa, the Caribbean, and black communities in North America and Europe. What Africa in particular needs are far more black free-marketeers, promoting fiscal prudence, and greater economic and political freedom.

The good (and vastly underreported) news is that Africa and the Caribbean have been improving on these fronts. For example, the motto of the Africa Resource Bank out of Kenya is "Building Africa Through Trade". As Freedom House’s recent global freedom survey suggests, there is a correlation between free markets, higher wealth and human rights protections. None of the predominantly black countries had a negative category change, but a couple countries became freer. Except Cuba, Haiti, and Trinidad & Tobago, all of the mostly black countries in the Caribbean are rated free (Trinidad & Tobago was rated partly free, and Haiti and Cuba as not free). In sub-Saharan Africa, 11 countries are free (23%), 21 as partly free (44%), and 16 (33%) as not free.

Earlier this year, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released their annual economic freedom index for 155 countries. The scores were compiled by analyzing 50 variables grouped into categories such as banking and finance, monetary policy, trade policy and property rights. The good news is that Africa and the Caribbean both experienced net gains in economic freedom. Bad news: The bulk of black countries remain in the mostly unfree category.

One task for us is to press for partly free countries to move into the free column, by starting with the countries that already show some progress.

An Agenda

The lack of political and especially economic freedom is a key reason why Africa currently accounts for only 2% of global trade, but about 16% of the world's population. Only 4% of black Americans own their own businesses, white the rate is 8% for blacks in Britain. By 2015, how about a push to get Africa's share of global trade at least up to 8%? Increasing Africa's trade by even 1 percentage point would generate $70 billion per year. At least 8% of black Americans owning a businesses? At least 12% for folks in Britain?

Visiting Africa in the 1920s, Mr. Du Bois wrote that his chief question was whether "Negroes are to lead in the rise of Africa or whether they must always and everywhere follow the guidance of white folk." The socialist version of Pan-Africanism has become obsessed with whiteness, and about handouts. The free-market version understands that we can do stuff without white folks. How about getting more African countries to trade with one another? Levering black Americans' $728 billion per year GDP - which would be the world's 16th largest economy on our own - to kick start market economies in our own communities? So what would a free-market agenda look like?

(1) Increase trade between Black North America, Black Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa. We know that black Americans' combined GDP is $728 billion per year. More of these funds can go to Caribbean and African producers if we push for the elimination of industry subsidies that reward inefficiency and harm these producers (and jack up our consumer prices).

Intra-Africa trade is quite low, accounting for only 10% of their total exports and imports. Poor transport links among African countries is one problem. Thus, colonial-era patterns remain, with most trade still to and from former colonial powers. When it costs only $1,500 to ship a car from Japan to the Ivory Coast, but $5,000 to do it from much closer Ethiopia then that is highly problematic. It shouldn't take nine monts to set up a business in Lagos, Nigeria. We primarily blame high tariffs, kleptocratic government leaders, and political instability. Regional markets can't work when one fears that the ruler will change next week or next year. Or when trade barriers are so high that there is no incentive to trade with one's neighbor. Or one's hard-earned dollars goes into some dictator's Swiss bank account or Paris shopping sprees for his wife, in Africa's brand of Swiss-bank socialism. As resource-rich as it is, we shouldn't read that Africa is the only world region that is no better off than 25 years ago.

(2) Cut corruption in Africa in half. Even the Africa Union states that corruption costs Africa $148 billion per year, as funds get siphoned off into bank accounts in many rulers' version of Swiss-bank socialism. As George Ayittey of the Free Africa Foundation has stated, governments cutting corruption even by half by 2015 would generated more money than what "end poverty" advocates are demanding from Western governments.

(3) Support private property rights and more efficient legal systems. In countries like Ethiopia - as Ethiopundit regularly points out - land is regularly confiscated at will. Small business enterprises can't develop if rank-and-file black folks - especially in Africa - are forbidden to even own land, which means it is in the hands of an unaccountable elite with a love for Swiss-bank socialism.

(4) Lesson ethnic conflict in Africa. Strengths-based black identity, highlight self-help efforts. My dream is for the borders in Africa to be redrawn to not reflect old colonial goals - which has helped increase conflict on the continent, in the post-colonial era - but ethnically homogenous populations and "traditional" cultural territories. That is what will help facilitate growth and lower conflict.

(5) A common currency market. The Caribbean already has this in place. Africa could start with some regional markets first.

(6) Support democratization efforts, be they conservative, moderate, or liberal. Efforts like increasing the civic society of black democracies like Ghana - which the Ghana Center for Democratic Development does - is a step in the right direction. Same for efforts like - an action which our pal at The Black Informant blog has highlighted by Nigerian citizens to help ensure that Ibrahim Babangida never rules Nigeria again. We're not sure that the folks at AgainstBabangida are capitalist or not, but the press for more democracy and transparency merely helps our cause.

(7) Build up or reforming institutions. We must support organizations such as the Africa Resource Bank (Kenya), Institute for Public Policy Analysis (Nigeria), Inter-Region Economic Network (Kenya), Ghana Center for Democratic Development (Ghana), Imani: Centre For Humane Education (Ghana), Free Africa Foundation (USA), Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (USA), National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (USA), and New Coalition for Economic and Social Change (USA). This helps build up civic societies in countries, which lessens the role of government. It also enhances black civic responsibility to improve our countries and communities.

We are glad that among the black moderate and conservative blogs (and many black liberal ones as well), we cover Africa and the Caribbean issues the most. We urge our peers to do so, and we will explore this issue further.

The above is a July 11, 2005 posting from Booker Rising, a newsite for Black Moderates and Black Conservatives. Booker Rising can be contacted via e-mail at:

Shay Riley

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

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