The appropriation of resources is one part of Europe’s relations to Africa, another part is the opening up of markets to European goods. We talked with Wangui Mbatia from Kenya, Kwame Banson from Fair Trade Africa and Nicola Bullard from Focus on the Global South about the impacts of EU trade policies and the so callled „Economic Partnership Agreements“ on Africa.
Nicola Bullard (Focus on the Global South, Bangkok), Kwame Basson (Fair Trade West Afrika), Wangui Mbatia (People's Parliament Kenia)
Fabian Scheidler: The appropriation of resources is one part of Europe’s relations to Africa, another part is the opening up of markets to European goods. We talked with Wangui Mbatia from Kenya, Kwame Banson from Fair Trade Africa and Nicola Bullard from Focus on the Global South about the impacts of EU trade policies and the so callled „Economic Partnership Agreements“ on Africa.
Wangui Mbatia: The economic partnership agreements – I think they’re misnamed because they’re not a partnership and they’re definitely not an agreement. What the EU countries are doing is they are forcing our governments to agree to a trade arrangement that is very unfavorable for us. One of the requirements of the partnership agreements is that we must open our markets to European goods. Now the concept of free trade sounds interesting and good, but when you assess the fact of that concept to citizens or to ordinary persons, it is very negative. Let’s start with the fact that the European governments can actually afford to subsidize the producers. Whether you’re talking about farmers or manufacturers, the European governments have enough to subsidize their producers which means that any given time European good come to our markets, it is possible to have them cheaper, even after transporting them. It is possible to have cheaper European goods in our market, which will mean that our goods that are not subsidized will no longer have a market. And that’s already happening. Milk coming into West Africa is already a crisis. In most of our countries, if you go to a supermarket, more than half the goods in the supermarket are coming from outside our countries. You know what that means really is that our industries are dying, our farmers struggling, but most importantly our population is being reduced to a consumer population that is playing no role in production. I think the long term of it is that we will be essentially enslaved people. It is difficult to see how that can be sustained in the long-term, we will have to probably give up more of our national and natural wealth in order to sustain that kind of trading. When you have a country with only 1% of the GDP of Germany being required to trade on the same level as Germany, it’s really not just ridiculous, it is injustice, it is gross injustice, We can’t expect a poor peasant African farmer to compete with a German farmer who gets 2 Euros a day to subsidize his cow. The poor African farmer is living on less than a euro a day for his entire family. The German cow gets double what the African farmer has, it doesn’t make sense to ask us to compete under these circumstances. As a result, it is nearly impossible now for us to use that tree. Our governments are enslaved in a culture of debt, aid and dread. And the European countries, the European communities use all three of them, one way or another, to achieve the goals it has for the moment. If you don’t behave well according to the EU than you’re willing to fear of debt, they may not lend you money that you need for important services, or they will not give you aid for services that you need, that maybe you’re dependent on they’re willing to fear with your capacity of trade.
Kwame Basson: Cotton production is falling in West Africa because of low prices on the markets. And that affect direly the livilihood of people I'm talking about. One of the main reasons identified for the low prices is the existence of subsedies on cotton. And the main subsediser of cotton in the world are the United States of America and the European Union. In fact the EU is the highest per capita subsediser of cotton in the world. And that goes against the producers in Africa. It also represents a contradiction in the EU's own development policy towards Africa. On the one side the EU is helping Africa to develop by giving us development aid. On the other side the subsedies are preventing African governments from getting revenues to awake. So we see the contradiction here. So we are trying to bring this to the attention of the European public to join us, to put pressure on the leaders.
Nicola Bullard: Obviously the Global Europe Strategy is driving very much Europe's external trade interests. So there is a strong effort to create maximum competitivness and efficiency within EU. And then to use this as a kind of launching pad for Europe to be efficient and competitive and to capture markets globally. So in that sense the EU is no different to the U.S. in how it behaves. So I think the Global Europe Strategy is very mercenary in a sense it's out there to expand European economic and corporate interests and of course political influence.
David Goeßmann: In the new raw material strategy of the European Union, presented in January, development policies are recommended to focus on access of the EU to resources from Africa and other developping countries. The German Ministry of Economics has founded a Federal Agency on Raw Materials in October 2010 to provide German corporations with low-cost access to resources. In the face of these raw material policies, human rights organisations, environmental groups and social movements fear accelerated exploitation in developing countries.
Nnimmo Bassey: Maybe the African governments don't realize it. But we in the popular movements do know that African countries are not the ones who own the European countries or the North American countries. It's the other way around. Because of hundreds of years of exploitation the prices for the goods and humanitarian resources and natural resources that are extracted have never been paid. Right now the same extraction continues and nobody is paying the real price.
Fatimatou Djibou: We as women are fighting in social movements to make our voices heard and to make decision-makers react reasonably.
Fabian Scheidler: This was Kontext TV. We will also publish the following interviews from the World Social Forum in Dakar in the coming weeks: Pat Mooney, winner of the „Right Livelihood Award“ on the dangers of nano-technology, geo-engineering and synthetic biology. The renowned world system theorist Immanuel Walllerstein on the crisis of capitalism. Nnimmo Bassey on the crimes of Shell in the Niger Delta and the necessary end of the fossil age.
David Goeßmann: The interviews and our broadcasts can be found on our website www.kontext-tv.de. Thanks for staying with us, we hope you’ll join again, David Goeßmann
Fabian Scheidler: ... and Fabian Scheidler.