U.S Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin passes AFRICOM flag to new AFRICOM Commander, Gen. Michael Langley. (Photo: africom.mil)
The Black Alliance for Peace AFRICOM Watch Bulletin #41 analyzes how white supremacy operates through the actions of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in an interview with Gacheke Gachihi, coordinator of the Mathare Social Justice Center in Kenya and a member of the Social Justice Centres Working Group. The AFRICOM Watch Bulletin also has the latest news from the African continent.
White supremacy is the combined ideological and structural expression of “white power.” In its ideological expression, it posits that the descendants of people of the territory/idea referred to as Europe represent the highest examples of human development. That their culture, social institutions, religions, and way of life are inherently and naturally superior. This position is combined with what BAP calls the global structures and institutions of white supremacy, the material means to maintain and advance global white power: The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), the global banking system, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and U.S. dollar hegemony.
For BAP, white supremacy cannot be reduced to individualized attitudes and values just among people identified as white. Instead, it should be seen as a structure of domination that is ideologically embedded into every aspect of U.S. and European society to the extent that it has become normalized and obscured as general common sense. White supremacy is fundamental to the Pan-European Colonial/Capitalist Patriarchy that began with the invasion of the “Americas” in 1492.
The IMF and World Bank are making moves in Africa against states like Kenya and Zambia, both of which are even more vulnerable as a result of the global economic crisis stemming from the capitalist reaction to the pandemic and the ongoing war in Europe. We must confront this important aspect of the new context of neo-colonial domination in Africa. The upcoming International Month of Action Against AFRICOM BAP has organized will deal with this. Africa and the rest of the world cannot be free until all peoples are able to realize the right of sovereignty and the right to live free of domination.
U.S. Out of Africa: Voices from the Struggle
AFRICOM Watch Bulletin speaks with Gacheke Gachihi, who is the coordinator of the Mathare Social Justice Center in Kenya and a member of the Social Justice Centres Working Group.
AFRICOM Watch Bulletin: Can you discuss the role of the IMF and World Bank in white supremacy?
Gacheke Gachihi: The World Bank and IMF have for too long perpetuated a racist stratification between developed and developing countries that is the result of centuries of colonialism and has served as a gatekeeper of a global economic system that continues to privilege the developed world of European countries and colonial settler-states such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
If the World Bank is earnest about putting an end to the scourge of white supremacy, it must work towards upending centuries of ruthless domination and exploitation—including systematic racial subjugation, colonization, wars, genocides and enslavement—which have produced a global economy that continues to benefit developed countries to the social, economic and environmental detriment of developing countries, Black countries in particular. The white supremacy of the World Bank and the IMF is holding African and Caribbean countries in debt bondage.
Colonialism is a structure, not an event. We see this in the global trade system. Economies that were colonized are at greater risk of getting locked into the production of raw materials and low-tech goods—a new form of colonialism. And we see this in global power relations. Africa has been a double victim. First, as a target of the colonial project. Second, African countries are underrepresented in the international institutions that were created after the Second World War, before most of them had won independence. The nations that came out on top more than seven decades ago have refused to contemplate the reforms needed to change power relations in international institutions.
AWB: How does this colonial, white supremacist structure play out in practice?
Gachihi: The racially stratified world order that was established by centuries of colonialism is reflected in the governance structure of the World Bank. Rather than being elected, the leaders of the World Bank (and the IMF) are appointed by the United States and Europe, one result being that the leaders appointed to the World Bank are always American (while the leaders appointed to the IMF are always European). Moreover, the entire voting system of the World Bank is skewed towards the domination of the United States, Europe and other developed countries and the subordination of developing countries, African countries in particular. The largest vote holders are the G7 countries—the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom—while middle- and low-income countries, which represent approximately 85 percent of the world’s population, have approximately 40 percent of the vote. Moreover, the systemic relegation of Black people in particular to the status of second-class global citizens is demonstrated in the gross underrepresentation of African and Caribbean nations on the board of the World Bank.
Whereas the majority of World Bank programs are in Africa and African countries account for more than 25 percent of the member countries of the World Bank, they are allotted a paltry 5.5 percent of the voting rights. Nigeria alone has a population of 196 million people and a $1.1 trillion GDP (PPP), but merely 0.65 percent of the voting rights in the World Bank. Qatar with a population of less than 2.8 million people and a $346 billion GDP (PPP) wields more voting power than Nigeria. Ethiopia, one of the 23 founding members of the World Bank, with 109.2 million people and a $253 billion GDP (PPP) is allotted 0.08 percent of the voting rights, which is significantly less than that of Luxemburg with a population of 613,894 and GDP of $44 billion.
White supremacy is a widespread global phenomenon that has virtually excluded over 1.2 billion African and Caribbean people from global economic forums such as the Group of Twenty (G-20) and a GDP of $6.36 trillion is represented by only one country, South Africa. By comparison, South America, with a population of 423 million and a GDP of $6.6 trillion is represented by three countries. Officially, the G-20 bills itself as “the premier forum for global economic and financial cooperation” and proclaims to be “inclusive” with a vision to “secure sustainable and balanced global growth and reform the architecture of global governance.”
AWB: What has been the impact of the work of the World Bank and IMF on the continent?
Gachihi: The wealth amassed by the global economic order continues to be concentrated in businesses and peoples in the developed world. And the economies, production and consumption of developed countries continue to rely on cheap access to natural and human resources in developing countries. This relationship undermines sustainable development, self-determination over natural resources, living wages and other labor rights, manufacturing output, access to higher education, social mobility, peace, security and political stability in developing countries. This is no less true for Africa. Most of the world’s least developed and poorest countries are in Africa. Fourteen of the 15 least educated countries are in Africa. Twenty-three of the 25 highest infant mortality rates are to be found in African countries. The 30 countries with the lowest life expectancy are all in Africa. And excluding countries in civil war, eight of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world are in Africa. Between 1980 and 2009, $1.2 to 1.4 trillion was illicitly siphoned out of Africa. This is far more than the money the continent received in foreign aid and loans over the same period. Sixty percent of the losses Africa suffered are due to aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations.
In many cases, African countries were performing better than Asian countries before the World Bank became a fixture on the continent. As World Bank data shows, in 1960 there were 10 sub-Saharan African countries with a GDP per capita (constant 2010 U.S. $) higher than those of China and Korea. Looking at the regional average, in 1960, the GDP per capita for sub-Saharan Africa was more than 300 percent of that of the average for South Asia. In 2019, the average for sub-Saharan Africa was 14 percent less than South Asia’s. In the 1970s, Africa accounted for over 3 percent of global manufacturing output. In 2016, the figure was down to 1.5 percent, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit. As World Bank data shows, in 1985, the world traded $2.47 trillion worth of stocks. In 2017, the figure had shot up to $77.57 trillion. Sub-Saharan Africa (barring South Africa) is the only region that did not even register a blip on the radar screen of the global capital (stock) markets. African countries were performing better than Asian countries before the World Bank became a fixture on the continent.
After 50 years of the IMF and World Bank’s intervention in African countries, the results are damning. Far from alleviating poverty, IMF and World Bank-financed projects have “devastating consequences for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet,” as documented by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The Bank’s virulent racism, which has segregated and marginalized Black people in its decision-making governance architecture, has left the fate of Africa to white supremacy. In effect, IMF and World Bank loan conditions and programs (including “structural adjustment”) have aided foreign investors, corporations and developed countries rather than African peoples; given priority to NGOs, consultants, skilled laborers and development experts from developed countries over those from African and Caribbean countries; increased access of developed economies to African natural resources, cheap labor, and markets, rather than aided the development of African countries; burdened African taxpayers, economies, and societies with ever growing unsustainable and insurmountable debts; and in the process failed to empower African countries to become economically as well as politically sovereign and self-determined. The Bank’s own economic and social data serves as its report card, showing the pillaging and devastation of Africa.
AWB: How does debt factor into this state of affairs?
Gachihi: The white supremacy of the World Bank and its sister institution the IMF is holding African and Caribbean countries in debt bondage. As the Heritage Foundation has demonstrated with hard data, “Most long-term recipients of World Bank money are no better off than they were when they received their first loan. Many are actually worse off.” This is not least true of African countries that face the highest costs of borrowing in the world when compared to their fiscal and economic capacities.
The vicious cycle of African and Caribbean countries having to borrow to stay afloat rather than develop, while sinking further into debt without any hope of ever repaying it, has been demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic emergency loans that they have taken from the World Bank and the IMF. Although African countries seem to have among the lowest infection rates in the world, most COVID-19 emergency loans from the World Bank have gone to African countries. In addition, African countries have taken emergency loans from the IMF to the tune of $7.5 billion.
AWB: Thank you for your insights and analysis!
News and Analysis
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