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ROAPE Blog

Our Blog

ROAPE’s blog hosts short articles to highlight developments on the continent and comment on the dynamics of protest, shifting patterns of political economy and issues of historical concern for the journal. We welcome submissions for short articles between 800 and 1,800 words.

Continuing the debate about Rwandan poverty statistics, Sam Desiere argues that with an inflation rate of 30% - which is more in line with ‘real’ inflation - poverty has increased in Rwanda. His findings raise concerns, not only for Rwanda’s (rural) policies (and poor), but also for international donors that have presented Rwanda as a model for development....

In her final blog in the series Lee Wengraf celebrates the life and work of Walter Rodney, the scholar, working class militant and revolutionary from Guyana who was murdered 37 years ago. His book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa remains a classic that must be carefully studied by activists and scholars today....

John Pilger exposes how the West is both fighting Islamic jihadist terrorism and using it for its own foreign policy objectives. The Manchester bomb was the result. Pilger shows how the British and French-led 2011 Nato offensive in Libya has strengthened Islamic terrorism in the region, spreading mayhem across many parts of Africa. ...

The Rwandan government has used its record on poverty reduction and economic growth to legitimize its authoritarian rule and to deflect criticism of its human rights record, just as the previous regime had done up until 1990. Yet as this blogpost shows despite official statistics poverty has actually increased in the country between 5% and 7% points between 2010 and 2014....

Ndongo Samba Sylla argues that the CFA franc - officially created on 26 December 1945 by a decree of General de Gaulle - used across much of Africa today is a colonial relics. For those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from imperialist control, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination....

Africa as an ‘issue’ for global economic ‘growth’ – managed by imperialist elites – dates to an earlier Berlin project: the infamous “Scramble for Africa” in 1884-85. Patrick Bond sees similar processes at work in the recent World Economic Forum – Africa conference held last week in Durban, South Africa....

Fadekemi Abiru explores the growth miracle of the East Asian Tigers, always posited as prime examples of developmental states. Yet the failure to identify developmental states, she argues, in sub-Saharan Africa has caused many to fear that these Asian instances may never be replicated again. ...

Gretta Digbeu argues that domestic resource mobilization, which was a major preoccupation for early development economists in the period before the neoliberal counter-revolution, has become an increasingly pressing issue for African countries in the context of financial liberalization, rising external debt and capital flight. ...

In the second part of his blog on Libya, Garry Littlejohn looks at Gaddafi’s plans to establish a pan-African currency independent of the French ‘African’ franc (CFA). It was these plans, he argues, that posed a serious threat to Western interests on the continent; his elimination was now an ambition of the intervention. ...

For too long growth has not been seen for what it is: an ideology invented to defend capitalism. In this blog Franklin Obeng-Odoom looks at the consequences for Africa of this deception. He argues that economics has attained its imperial status not because of strong and rigorous methodology or even its better use of data, but, largely, because it serves an ideological role. It is this ideology that sustains the position of ‘economic science’....

In the forth in a series of blogs for roape.net, writer and activist Lee Wengraf explores China’s recent investment and engagement in Africa. China, she argues, is no kinder, gentler imperial option: just like 19th century colonialists, when the Chinese build roads and schools, the goal is to facilitate resource extraction and build allegiances. ...

Jointly published by Jacobin and ROAPE, David Seddon writes about Che Guevara's doomed, heroic mission to the Congo in 1965. Seddon argues that Che Guevara’s expedition in the Congo, though ill-fated, stands as a crucial example of anti-imperialist solidarity. In the blog-post Seddon charts the failures of the expedition and draws the lessons....

In this blog Mostafa Bassiouny and Anne Alexander assess the current state of the Egyptian workers’ movement and the potential for its revival. The workers’ movement remains, they argue, the most important potential location for effective popular resistance to the neoliberal policy agenda, reflecting organised workers’ capacity to paralyse sections of the economy and the state apparatus itself and the legacy of over a decade’s sustained experience in self-organisation. ...

In the third in a series of blogs for roape.net, writer and activist Lee Wengraf exposes some of the myths about corruption in Africa. The notion of “African corruption” persists despite the reality of widespread and established practices of illicit activity in the West, and, crucially, the contribution and culpability of Western corporations and governments to ‘African’ corruption....

Lee Wengraf unpicks the myths of Africa’s so-called 'resource curse', a term she argues that is profoundly ahistorical. Blaming a 'resource curse' purely on dictators and politicians, as many Western academics have argued, refuses to admit that the colonial pillage of Africa continues, now driven through trade rules, bilateral and multilateral arrangements, multinational companies and international agencies....

Heike Becker discusses calls for reparations for the German colonial genocide in Namibia between 1904-1908. These negotiations are complicated and contested. In New York at the beginning of January, representatives of the Ovaherero and Nama people filed a class act legal claim suing Germany for the genocide. ...

Defeat of the incumbent president in Ghana’s recent election was a shock - incumbents win 88 per cent of the elections they contest on the continent, Akufo-Addo’s NPP, defied this pattern. Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis explain how Ghana’s election made history. ...

In the first in a series of blogs for roape.net, writer and activist Lee Wengraf describes Obama’s bloody legacy in Africa. Over eight years the continent has seen an intensification of US aerial campaigns, proxy warfare, and imperial competition. ...

Hannah Cross writes about Jeremy Corbyn’s alternative vision of society, and the new prospects for Britain’s relationship with Africa. Beyond his renowned stance against military interventions, there is also a record of opposition to other forms of domination in African countries....

Africa's middle-class intellectuals, the political and business elite love to complain about how Africa is “misrepresented” in western media, but not the poor and oppressed who are the subject of that reporting. Remi Adekoya writes that the privileged classes resent seeing Africa’s widespread poverty on display. ...

ROAPE's Hannah Cross introduces the new special issue on women, which deepens our understanding of women’s mobilisations in Africa and elsewhere. It also urges attention to gender relations in the analysis of contestations over land, labour, political rights and other forms of protest....

Marco Mondaini and Colin Darch look at the recent shifts in Brazil’s relationship to Africa. Since 2003 changes have created space for the development of research on Africa and the broadening of research perspectives on the continent, but they must be seen in a broader context of Brazil's modern engagement with the continent. Mondaini and Darch argue that the recent constitutional 'coup' in Brazil threatens the country's developing relationship with Africa....

In a major rethinking of African workers in Europe Faisal Garba argues that precarity is nothing new, and must be approached as a continuation of a longstanding process, the understanding of which cannot be limited to contemporary capitalism but to the very nature of capitalism. Capitalism as the global politico-economic order is responsible for the desperation that drives migration, and the impoverishment of working class people everywhere. The experiences of the Global South, Garba argues, are spreading across Europe....

Writing about the Rhodes Must Fall movement Simukai Chigudu argues that the notion of decolonisation involves questioning the hegemony of white, western thought in fields of study as diverse as history, politics, philosophy, modern languages, and literature. Following Edward Said, he argues that we all share an intellectual obligation to push this endeavour forward....

Gary Littlejohn looks at the incredible research output of the radical Mozambican Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Economicos (IESE). The Institute has succeeded in organising nine annual conferences already under what have been at times difficult circumstances, run by a fairly small research unit that is entirely dependent on the funds that it raises through consultancy work and book sales, is remarkable....

ROAPE's Alastair Fraser writes about the recent contested elections in Zambia. He explains that without mobilized social movements making demands on the state, without mass-membership political parties which represent substantive political interests and projects, without citizens excited by a belief in the possibility of transforming the country, gains in formal rights – to free association, to freedom of expression - are easily pushed aside....

Christopher Webb argues that while the South African state has increased social welfare to the poorest it has also facilitated the expansion of a predatory form of finance targeting those same people. Webb reveals how social grants and their delivery has facilitated the emergence of predatory forms of micro-lending that targets the poor....

In reflections on her fieldwork in South Africa, Asanda Benya writes about the difficulties and insights she gained while researching underground female mine-workers. Asanda argues that maintaining a distance, or being detached, was not a possible or morally available option, her research demanded that she became fully immersed in the lives of those being studied. ...

ROAPE’s Tunde Zack-Williams provides a detailed background to the war in Sierra Leone that led to British intervention in 2000, he then introduces Lionel Cliffe's paper on Tony Blair's involvement in the country in 2000 which roape.net publishes for the first time. As Zack-Williams concludes, ‘Lionel’s paper … questions: in whose interests do we intervene in conflicts in foreign land? Are we in a position to always tell the good guys from the bad guys?’...

Luke Sinwell and Siphiwe Mbatha spent two years researching the contemporary mine-workers’ movement in South Africa and in their new book, The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa, they detail the creation of an alternative structure which was intended to hold the ‘new’ union, the Association of Mine-workers and Construction Union (AMCU), accountable to the rank and file. ...

Shahenda Maklad (1938 – 2016), was an Egyptian activist, defending the rights of farmers and taking up many grassroots causes. She was the founder of the independent Peasants Union. On June 3, 2016, Maklad passed away after a battle with cancer. roape.net republishes an interview with Shahenda which first appeared in ROAPE in 2011....

Graham Harrison writes how Africa shows the world a future capitalism, one in which the social relations of production are far more extensively defined by contingency, violence, struggle, fraud, unfree labour, environmental pillage, and the politics of organised chaos. Capitalism is as resilient as it is unstable, but there is hope once the process of breaking it down begins. ...

Leo Zeilig's blog looks at the events that took place in Burkina Faso during and immediately after the military coup in September last year. The defeat of the coup was the result of extraordinary protests and popular struggles; Burkina Faso's second uprising in less than a year. ...

Since the 1940s, Marxist thought has blossomed in Nigeria. Adam Mayer, author of 'Naija Marxism', writes about the thinkers, experts and authors who have analysed and contributed to the country's labour movement, its feminist movement, its social thought and political economy. ...

ROAPE’s Laura Mann discusses a recent workshop held at the London School of Economics on 3 May, which brought together leading economic geographers and political economists to discuss new prospects for industrialization and transformation in African countries in light of shifts in the global economy....

ROAPE's Leo Zeilig talks to Yao Graham about radical political economy in Africa, structural transformation and the legacy of neo-liberalism on the continent. In the short video clip included in the interview Graham speaks about the struggle for justice and change in Ghana. Graham is the co-ordinator of Third World Network in Accra, Ghana and the Africa Editor of ROAPE....

ROAPE’s Leo Zeilig talks to Trevor Ngwane about political developments in South Africa, the crisis in the ANC, the growth of new struggles on the left, in the universities and workplaces. Ngwane is a long-standing socialist activist, researcher and writer. ...

In October 2014 the World Bank presented its “South Africa Economic Update No 6” concluding: ‘The fiscal system is already achieving a lot of redistribution, and there is little space left in the government’s purse to do more to alleviate poverty and inequality via fiscal policy.’ The report became a part of the ideological foundation of the 2016/17 budget, which fell short of protecting 16 million South Africans from real cuts in their social grants. Dick Forslund exposes the fundamental errors in the report....

ROAPE’s Leo Zeilig talks to Antonater Tafadzwa Choto about the ongoing economic crisis in Zimbabwe, the impact on ordinary people, and some of the factors that are likely to worsen or mitigate the crisis in forthcoming years. Choto is a well-known labour activist, researcher and currently director of the Zimbabwe Labour Centre....

In this challenging discussion of student movements and universities in Africa and India, Amrita Pande, Faisal Garba and Ruchi Chaturvedi ask how can university communities’ articulate forms of just belonging, which counters new hierarchies and old? How can we undo the legacies of colonialism and the inequalities of a growth-based model not in a way that simply overturns old hierarchies to place the ones on bottom on the top, but in a way that possibilities of such stratification are themselves displaced. ...

Raymond Sango writes about the Chiadzwa mining area in Zimbabwe, describing the dramatic ‘diamond rush’ following the expiration of DeBeers mining licence in 2006, the massacre of informal workers in the area in 2008 and the ‘looting’ partnership between government bureaucrats, Chinese and other foreign companies which has limited the potential of diamond production to improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans...

Activist and radical scholar Issa Shivji explains how ROAPE emerged from the womb of the struggles from which the founders had come in the 1970s. Today the project of radical transformation, of revolution, on the continent remains central to the real life struggles of the working masses....

Claims of rigging aside, Uganda’s opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) clearly made significant inroads into various regions in the country’s recently concluded general elections. This achievement was particularly striking in the Acholi sub-region where voting highlights the limits of money and intimidation, and the importance of persuasion. ...

Martin Legassick's death has robbed us of an important Marxist political economist. ROAPE Online publishes his remarks prepared for the closing plenary of the World Association of Political Economy forum on 21 June, 2015 upon being awarded a Distinguished Achievement Award in Political Economy for the Twenty-First century....

Patrick Bond writes how the World Bank is blinded by its own dogma and unable to see the extent of South African poverty.To do so would violate the Bank’s foundational doctrine, that states the central problems of poverty can be solved by applying market logic. It is only by breaking with the logic of the market that real gains can be made for South Africa's poor....

South African writer and academic Heike Becker looks at South Africa's extraordinary student movement that in 2015 brought down symbols of colonialism and exploitation, fought against fee increases in higher education and called for the end of racism and of neo-liberal outsourcing practices of support services at universities. She asks if this was South Africa's 1968. ...

Over the last three years Ben Radley has been working on a documentary, We Will Win Peace, which is a critique of campaigns often led by western advocacy groups on ‘conflict minerals’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with their dominant narrative that has placed western consumers at the heart of the solution. In this blog Ben unpicks some of the issues involved. ...

Gary Littlejohn writes how the outbreak of the Zika virus in Central and South America, has spread across some 23 countries and has caught international health agencies by surprise. It has now shown up in recent months in Cape Verde, so it has returned to Africa after circling the globe eastwards in less than 70 years. Littlejohn asks what are the lessons from Africa for defeating the virus....

On the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian revolution Brecht De Smet writes that the events in 2011 remain an inspiration for contemporary radical politics. However the counter-revolutionary Egyptian state holds the mirror up to the core countries of the West, which can recognize their own policies in the peripheral, broken reflection of an authoritarian, debt-ridden, and unstable regime....

Heike Becker explores the development of an extraordinary new protest movement in Namibia. Affirmative Repositioning is a movement of urban youth, which took off from a spectacular and audacious occupation of a piece of land in an affluent suburb of Windhoek in November 2014. ...

Poursuivant notre collaboration avec Afriques en Lutte, Bruno Jaffré écrit que le Burkina a voté pour d’anciens proches de Blaise Compaoré renversé pourtant à la suite d’une puissante insurrection populaire. Cela, Jaffré écrit, peut paraitre paradoxal mais ce résultat est pourtant logique en regard de la réalité de la situation politique du pays. ...

Peter Lawrence reflects on the early days of the Review of African Political Economy, the role Ruth First played in the Review's first issues and an important argument about Cuba's involvement in Angola that divided the editorial group....

With the launch of our our new website we reflect on how the Review of African Political Economy was established in 1974. ROAPE was founded with the aim to ‘examine the roots of Africa’s present condition’ and problems such as inequality and dependency. Yet, the Review did not seek to promote scholarly research for its own sake, but instead sought to engage with the actions required for transformation. ...

In this blog the co-ordinator and editor of Afriques en Lutte, Paul Martial, explains the background to French involvement in Africa and the origins of their radical initiatives and the collaboration between ROAPE and Afriques en Lutte. ...

In this exploration of solidarity Graham Harrison seeks to go beyond the stultifying formality of cultural relativism and the universalisms of liberalism and social justice. He suggests that more pragmatic and situated approaches to solidarity and struggle would repay far better than searches for the universally-agreed code for a global struggle of the kind that was pervasive during the Cold War. ...

Femi Aborisade asks what is the root cause of the pervasive poverty across Africa. In this blog he argues that we have a duty to continue to explain that there is a relationship between poverty and politics. Framing these questions within a radical political economy analysis remains vital. With a focus on Nigeria the blog looks at the sort of political agenda that needs to be adopted to reverse the continents underdevelopment....

Baba Aye looks at developments in Burkina Faso between the October 31, 2014 and September 17, 2015. He discusses the challenges and possibilities for the unfolding moment in the country and lessons for the working class and social movements for change across Africa....

In this blog Hannah Cross argues that we need to overcome the illusion that clandestine immigration is a choice - something to be liked or disliked, or that it is positive or negative, rather than an inevitable and sometimes tragic outcome of the predatory nature of the world economy. The promotion of counter-narratives, solidarity and defence of migrants goes to the heart of democratic struggle....