From the single party model to “representative democracy”, from structural adjustment policies to reforms on enhancing “competitiveness” and improving the “business environment”, almost all fashionable political and economic models have been experimented on the African continent. Yet, they all clearly failed, as attested by the majority of socio-economic indicators in the areas of nutrition, health, education, employment, etc. According to UN forecasts, Africa will account for a quarter of the world’s population by 2050. If Africa is still unable to adequately address the problems faced by its billion inhabitants, how will it do it when its population doubles? Beyond the critique of neo-liberalism, there is therefore a pressing need to reflect about alternatives that will help Africa back out of this dead-end and find its own path. This is the perspective adopted by this book edited by Ndongo Samba Sylla, which compiles contributions of experts on Africa’s development issues. Can democracy help to achieve the changes that Africans aspire to? If yes, in which conditions? Otherwise, what is the alternative? How can Africa break with neo-colonial practices that prevent its political, economic and cultural emancipation? What role is there for women in these processes? In view of the paralysis and treason of elites, can social movements be harbingers of the much awaited radical shifts? What contribution could the private media bring in implementing people-centred alternatives? Rethinking development attempts to provide answers to these essential questions.
Is Fair Trade an alternative to Aid and Free Trade?
Trade not Aid”: this used to be the slogan of third-worldist movements in the mid-1960s, an epoch when intellectual figures in the Third World were denouncing the unequal exchange between the capitalist Center and the Periphery. The aim was then to challenge the capitalist system at its very basis. Forty years later, in a global neoliberal context, it seems that the issue of unequal exchange has resurfaced through the Fair Trade movement, a movement which purports to help the poorest and most marginalized producers of the global South. Based on the perceived failures of aid and free trade paradigms, the Fair Trade protagonists count on the generosity and solidarity of Northern consumers in order to achieve fairer trade relationships between the North and the South.
Ndongo Samba SYLLA, 09 February 2014. Ndongo-FT_paper
The Nigeria Social Action Conference 2013
The goal of the Social Action Conference is to provide space for representatives of popular organisations and progressive forces, including scholars and activists, to discuss options for promoting popular power and enthroning a representative and accountable government in Nigeria. Specifically, participants of the 2013 Conference will examine the idea of the National Conference and other social processes with a view to defining an agenda and process for national dialogue and social mobilisation that meets the demands for progress of the Nigerian state, its communities and citizens. The output from the Conference will serve as a major intervention of civil society in influencing discourses and actions in the struggle for social change in Nigeria Concept of the conference
ODJ – Youth camp in Burkina Faso
The camp is led by a steering committee that is set up at the end of the first meeting between the organizing Committee and participants. Appointed among the campers, the steering committee is responsible for the adoption and enforcement of the rules of procedure. The organizational committee of the camp proposes the amendments of the program activities. All campers are divided in different divisions according to their abilities and personal conveniences and organisational requirements. However, the spirit of collegiality and brotherhood command that activities are performed without distinction of belonging to a division when need is.
Democracy and social Change – Challenges to the Left (postponed)
“…despite the promises of liberal democracy generally, and multiparty elections specifically, parties throughout Africa often emerge as vehicles utterly incapable of translating broader societal needs into actual public policy. Whereas campaign messages look so sincere during the heated campaign battles, in the times between elections, parties and politicians generally fail to cultivate durable connections with those that lack the financial backing to offer something in return. This of course, is not just a problem in Africa.” (Richard Whitehead, Pambazuka News, 2010-11-18, Issue 505)
“After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc we never got redeemed from the ‘terror of ideology’. To the contrary, we all became slaves of one single ideology.” (Jakob Augstein, Sabotage, 2013)
Indeed it is “not just in Africa” where the system of political democracy based on multiparty elections seems to have let into a cul-de-sac. The potential “danger” of multiparty elections to bring about political change has been successfully hijacked by the ‘old’ political elites. Regardless of which party wins the elections the policies implemented thereafter are obviously always pretty much the same. While paying mere lip service to the plight faced by poor people the interests of economic elites are always setting the tone. It seems as if the voters are only allowed to select the personnel but not the policies the winners will perform later on. Real “regime change” seems to be out of reach in the “democratic system as we know it”. And this is by far not an African peculiarity; the phenomenon is very common to Europe and other regions as well.