Book Review: Looting Africa by Patrick Bond April 16, 2007Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Book Reviews, History, Politics, South Africa, Southern Africa.
My rating: 6 out of 10 – lots of very valuable info, but quite academic.
I’m a big fan of Patrick Bond and have read several of his books, including Fanon’s Warning, Talk Left, Walk Right and Against Global Apartheid.
He has been one of the most consistently outspoken progressive voices and establishment critics in South and Southern Africa in the last few years. He combines grassroots activism with cutting-edge political and economic analysis and constantly illuminates crucial connections between the global north and south.
His books are, however, very technical, academic and dry and if you are not a political economist, you may find them rather heavy going. I’m left to wonder how much more impact and influence his work would have if it was more accessible to ordinary people. To people like myself the economic jargon tends to obscure rather than clarify matters…
Having said that, his latest book, Looting Africa – The Economics of Exploitation should be required reading for anyone who’s concerned about Africa’s future. In it, Bond basically addresses the question “Why is Africa still poor?”.
At the beginning of the book, Bond presents two opposing answers. The first, which is widely pushed by the liberal press and establishment, is that “Africa is poor, ultimately, because its economy has not grown…”. The second states that “Africa is poor, ultimately, because its economy and society have been ravaged by international capital as well as by local elites who are often propped up by foreign powers…”.
Obviously Bond is a proponent of the latter answer and he proceeds to present data and analysis to demonstrate that Africa’s poverty is not only a result of historic evils such as slavery and colonial-era extraction of resources and profits, but that comparable processes do in fact continue today “in an amplified way” via debt repayments and “African elites [who] have transferred their society’s liquid reserves to oversees accounts on an even greater scale […]”.
Among other issues, Bond discusses the continuing African foreign debt crisis, unequal and unfair trade and investment relationships, the role of the Bretton Woods institutions (International Monetary Fund and World Bank), China’s growing influence on the continent and South Africa’s increasingly sub-imperial role.
Looting Africa concludes with an assessment of the two predominant views on how to fight Africa’s continued impoverishment, either through paternalistic mainstream efforts (Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Make Poverty History, “Live 8”) or through radical grassroots civil society movements.