Dance of Death: Corporatizing Compassion for Africa

Once more, George Monbiot delivers the goods on the horrific farce of "Live 8" and the "Make Poverty History" movement. Monbiot reveals what almost every single mainstream article about these efforts conceals: that Bush and Blair are "outsourcing" their "benevolent" programs for Africa to some of the most rapacious corporations in the world. They are making a vicious mockery of the generous impulses of millions of young people, marketing themselves as concerned and compassionate leaders while hiding the draconian conditions of near-colonial exploitation they are imposing on any African nation that takes up their offers of aid and debt relief.

I suppose what shocks me most in all of this is the fact that I am still able to be shocked by the shameless, self-serving, murderous lies of political leaders, and the extent to which they are utterly and completely bought and sold by Big Money. Even so, the cynicism displayed in this sickening episode takes my breath away. Once again, I must drag out a line I've used repeatedly in the Bush-Blair era and cry out with a loud voice, saying: "What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?"

Here's an excerpt from Monbiot:
Multinational corporations…have already been given control of the primary instrument of US policy towards Africa, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The act is a fascinating compound of professed philanthropy and raw self-interest. To become eligible for help, African countries must bring about "a market-based economy that protects private property rights", "the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment" and a conducive environment for US "foreign policy interests". In return they will be allowed "preferential treatment" for some of their products in US markets.

The important word is "some". Clothing factories in Africa will be allowed to sell their products to the US as long as they use "fabrics wholly formed and cut in the United States" or if they avoid direct competition with US products. The act, treading carefully around the toes of US manufacturing interests, is comically specific. Garments containing elastic strips, for example, are eligible only if the elastic is "less than 1 inch in width and used in the production of brassieres". Even so, African countries' preferential treatment will be terminated if it results in "a surge in imports"…

[The Act's] implementation has been outsourced to the Corporate Council on Africa. The CCA is the lobby group representing the big US corporations with interests in Africa: Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Starbucks, Raytheon, Microsoft, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup and others…Now something very similar is being set up in the UK. Tomorrow the Business Action for Africa summit will open in London with a message from Tony Blair. Chaired by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the head of Anglo American, its speakers include executives from Shell, British American Tobacco, Standard Chartered Bank, De Beers and the Corporate Council on Africa…

Few would deny that one of the things Africa needs is investment. But investment by many of our multinationals has not enriched its people but impoverished them. The history of corporate involvement in Africa is one of forced labour, evictions, murder, wars, the under-costing of resources, tax evasion and collusion with dictators…

Debt, unfair terms of trade and poverty are not causes of Africa's problems but symptoms. The cause is power: the ability of the G8 nations and their corporations to run other people's lives. Where, on the Live 8 stages and in Edinburgh, was the campaign against the G8's control of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the UN? Where was the demand for binding global laws for multinational companies?

At the Make Poverty History march, the speakers insisted that we are dragging the G8 leaders kicking and screaming towards our demands. It seems to me that the G8 leaders are dragging us dancing and cheering towards theirs.