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Human and Economic Development Needed to Alleviate Problems in Africa

8/27/2004 - 4:00 AM PST

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Interview with African Affairs Expert Rodolfo Casadei

RIMINI, AUG. 27, 2004 (Zenit) - According to Rodolofo Casadei, there are precise reasons for the conflicts that plague Africa, as well as hope for development and progress in the future.

Casadei co-authored with Martino Chieffo “Africa: Forgotten Conflicts and Builders of Peace,” published in Italian, and presented the work at the Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini.

In this interview with us, Casadei, a top Italian expert in African affairs, talks about the conclusions he has arrived at after having written the book.

Q: According to your study, what are the causes of the conflicts in Africa?

Casadei: We must be clear say that the most widespread explanations are not credible: those which identify the cause of African wars with tribalism and those that point to interferences of neo-colonial external interests in Africa.

Both explanations, although of different political origin, stem from the same racist paradigm: the paradigm of the African man as the eternal child. This paradigm served to justify the need for colonialism, but now it also promotes a progressive paradigm that sees the white man as eternally guilty and the African man as eternally innocent.

Q: What, then, are the real causes?

Casadei: They are innumerable. I will try to mention some of them. The first relates to Africa’s traditional economy, which has very low productivity. Lack of productivity fosters the tendency to appropriate another’s product to compensate for lacking one's own.

Slavery finds roots in a subsistence economy, as the possession of slaves allows for the increase in domestic productivity. In fact, the objective of some wars between neighbors is to acquire slaves.

Then there is the makeup of the population, in particular the age categories: the conflicts are stronger where the incidence of young people is higher. The average age in Sub-Saharan Africa is about 17. The average age in Italy is 40.2 years, and the average age globally is 26.5 years. It is a society where power is monopolized by the elderly. War becomes a means of social climbing for young people.

There is also polarization between groups of the population, for example, the conflicts between those who cultivate the land and the cattle dealers. During the dry seasons, which are frequent, the cattle dealers invade the farmers' lands and vice versa, with constant conflicts.

Q: What are the causes of the new African conflicts?

Casadei: The main problem is the crisis of the modern African welfare state. When the government cannot distribute right and left the resources among the ethnic and pressure groups, it substitutes the politics of arms for the arms of politics.

Unfortunately, the resources have depleted since the end of the Cold War and the price of primary commodities has fallen. This is especially due to the lack of efficient use of financial aid and foreign investment.

According to the U.N., the amount of capital exported illegally from Africa is equivalent to more than half of all the African external debt.

Much of the foreign exchange that has arrived in Africa, thanks to international loans or the export of oil products, has been siphoned into bank accounts in Switzerland or England, hidden in tax havens or invested in real estate property abroad.

So, as the capacity to distribute resources has collapsed, the African state has collapsed.

The crisis of this conception of the state has brought a new political elite to power, that of the "war lords." They are “political-military entrepreneurs” who use war for personal power and wealth.

Q: Do you mean that there are people who invest in war?

Casadei: Precisely. There are businessmen who invest money in arms and soldiers (men and children), a risky investment but very lucrative. In the ’90s, we had war lords in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Angola.

At the beginning of the 21st century, we have chiefs of general staff who transform themselves into war lords, as is the case of the two wars of the Congo, where they have appropriated the resources of former Zaire.

Q: What solution is there to such a dramatic situation?

Casadei: The remedy against war is economic and human development. There are several conditions to achieve this development: the first is to allow space for development to African civil society and the world of international cooperation.

The second, is the political and economic evolution that leads to the modern state, the state of law, in the wake of the post-colonial failure.

Cooperation and security could be guaranteed with an agreement of collaboration between Africa and Europe. Europe should understand the strategic importance of a new collaboration agreement.

When Africa cannot guarantee it, international forms of tutelage should intervene. Wherever the survival of whole human groups is in danger and the prospect of development is totally compromised, humanitarian interference is not only licit, but a duty.

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Keywords

Africa, Economy, Finance, Development, War

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