As we begin the implementation of the AEFJN 2019-2022 action plan our attention is, once more, drawn to the systemic drivers of poverty, hunger and ecological destruction in Africa. For reasons not easy to comprehend, the industrialised countries of Europe, America and Asia have chosen to exploit and build monuments for themselves out of the hunger, poverty and environment of Sub-Saharan Africa. Each day, there are reports of bilateral and multilateral investment treaties to promote African development, grow the African economy and promote Public Private Partnership in Africa but the outcomes have shown these to be deceptive narratives to maintain the status quo, Trojan Horses that will compromises the holistic integrity of the African continent as their true nature unfolds.

Through the so-called various bilateral trade agreements and multilateral investment treaties, Africa has become a primary destination for direct foreign investments. The protection of the investor’s interests is almost a normative in the trade regime, but there is no corresponding effort to protect the interests of host communities. What is most surprising is the desperate efforts of the host government to ensure the protection of the investors even at the expense of the good of her citizens by signing off contracts without due consideration for the host communities. The cliché for this untoward behavior is the promise and hope that the investments would bring development, technology and economic growth for their countries. Despite the increasing number of the so-called Private Public Partnership, the African continent has remained with a vast number of poor and suffering populations.

Rather, what we have seen are the grabbing of communities’ choice agricultural lands, extractivism, water and environmental pollutions, conflicts, migration and the dehumanisation of migrants. What would have contributed to the African through the investments are lost as tax breaks, profit repatriation and illicit financial flows. In the final analysis, the investments regimes and their programs are conduit pipes siphoning Africa to grow the investors and their national economies. In the light of these, where is the wisdom in the continued faith of the Africa national governments in the monumental lies of large-scale investments and aids?  Why continue to fall over each other in competition to attract them to their respective countries and, through the same means, mortgaging their valuable national and cultural instruments that promote social and national cohesion, environmental protection, and the dignity of their citizens?

It must be recognised that the structures of negotiation of the so-called bilateral and multilateral investment regimes that mediate large scale land investments in Africa are not in any way comparable. The developed countries of Europe and America unilaterally dictate the terms and conditions of the investments; the agreements are at bests Unilateral Investments regimes. With African policy space already undermined by the investments regimes, it is not difficult to see how the poverty, hunger and growing inequality in Africa have been sustained through the centuries and the race for foreign direct Investments in Africa is still rat-race. If the global community especially the EU is really concerned about contributing to the growth of Africa, these unbalanced structures of negotiations need to be recognised and compensated for in the ongoing Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The EU must recognise that the systemic impoverishment of Africa has heavy repercussions on Europe.

The point raised is crucial against the backdrop of the incoherence that the Civil Society has since pointed out in the EU development policies and trade regimes. Recently, Coalition contre la Faim placed a finger on two examples, to illustrate these inconsistences. The coalition shows how the excess milk produced in the EU has killed the local milk production in ECOWAS region. The local producers already produced 70% of local need of milk and have the potential to produce enough milk for the region. However, the excess milk produced in the EU, when the production quotas were removed, were converted into powdered milk and dumbed in the region at a very cheap rate which quickly stifled the local production of milk in the region. What would now happen to these local, household producers? The example is the tip of the iceberg of what will happen to the local industries when the present form of the EPAs is fully implemented.

Similarly, Trade and Investment regimes that promote large scale land investment will worsen the already precarious condition of African small holder farmers and her food security. All these would combine to trigger more migration through the dangerous Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Africa is at the cross road of her history and what she needs are only sincere collaborators to help realise the 2030 program. The Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) must be true to the propaganda that surrounds them, geared towards equipping Africa to break out of the grip of poverty. They must be truly, systematically crafted antidotes to the lingering development crises in Africa and not a reinvention of the old narrative; not cleverly dressed up Trojan Horses.  Anything less, looks beautiful but mal-efficient inside.

Chika Onyejiwa