since money became the means of exchange we have had problems. These currencies
basically exclude us from the right to produce and consume. Those that control
them can raise or devalue currencies at will and the consequence of that is our
total exclusion from what we wish to grow, consume and spend. I wish that we
could all, including all our neighbours, get together and build our own market
based on the framework of the erstwhile markets. This would be a unified common
market that would make for the flow and circulation of goods, people, services
and even cultures that have been reduced to mummy entities. If only we could
put together what the empires have broken up and go beyond the limits of the
boundaries and glass ceilings that the colonial state sets for us, we could be
whole again. We could become whole beings and become our own selves once again.
We cannot play with others based on rules and goals that are set only by them.”
One immediate tangible area of cooperation between the ECOWAS group is to re-explore their energy sectors. They all share certain basic commonalities. They all need energy for their industrialization drives. They all import petroleum for both domestic and commercial and infra-structural provisions in more or less unsustainable ways. And so on.
What is stopping them from coming together and addressing this major cost center on their budgets once and for all?
The Ghanain petroleum Professor Mr. Sikarta has demonstrated amply that the gas that is flared in Nigeria alone, can put electricity in every single home throughout West Africa. Other lesser known studies have reported that the Nigerian flared gas can, in fact supply electricity to every single home in Africa. Can you imagine the gas that is flared in all the other oil and gas flaring nations in Africa? If and only if the African nations could get together and build a grid/pipe-line to supply all the potential African industries that cannot be functional for want of energy; lack access to, modern day technology, agricultural inputs, health-care, shelter and the difference all of these can make in their lives and livelihoods? Nigeria has the second highest level of flaring in the world. In most countries the excess gas is collected and used to generate power. A 2004 World Bank report said the value of gas flared annually in Nigeria alone is between US$500 million and $2.5 billion. This has been the situation since the sixties-what a waste?
There are other obvious spin-offs in the gas based industries such as fertilizer, petrochemicals and methanol which could immediately prove invaluable in addressing a whole raft of challenges facing the African continent. Perhaps ECOWAS could tune into this frequency and desist from the red-herrings of currency harmonization and other trivia; the ‘green card’, the ‘brown card’ the currency exchange rate mechanisms and fluctuations and what have you? You see, by aping their role model, the E U who are embroiled in an inevitable crisis of protectionism and xenophobia will lead them ultimately in the same pickle or an even more dreadful circumstances.
Do you remember the intrigues at the Akosombo dam and how the Kaiser cooperation brought in bauxite from Jamaica to smelt in Ghana? Have we drawn lessons from this?
What is preventing the African governments from coming together to cash in on solar and wind power (which they have so much in abundance) in order to develop their industries in addition to petroleum? In his twilight years these were the issues that Gaddafi was pre-occupied with, for Africa to manage her own economy and be free from the overwhelming forms of dominance. Little wonder why he had to go.
Take the former French territories in West Africa. All of them were conned and obliged to join a solidarity pact by France. ‘The 14 African states put 65% of their foreign currency reserves into the French treasury, plus another 20% for financial liabilities. This means these 14 African countries only ever have access to 15% of their own money! If they need more they have to borrow their own money from the French at commercial rates! And this has been the case since the 1960s. Who would you put on trial at The Hague for economic crimes and crimes against humanity?
Finally, the situation of Africa will not change! It will continue to mean the expatriation of resources/ surpluses produced by African toil to develop Europe while under developing herself. Africa and the west will continue to be locked in this deadly embrace and in the same dialectical process till kingdom come. I presume, we all need change…here is our chance to do so now and not later!
Let us conclude on a lighter note and give Peters the last word:
We are pledged as writers to reveal to our utmost capacity the essence of the human condition, to illuminate the human spirit and, in so doing, to lift it out of the bondage of darkness and to drag it towards the light.
Let us, let us move towards the Light.
Baaba Sillah mu Sabel op/na June 2016.